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Tony Grist

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The Right Man Won [Nov. 5th, 2008|09:31 am]
Tony Grist
Well, that's a relief!

I'm not a fan of Obama- I'm not a fan of any politician- but I think the right man won.

I believe this'll be my eleventh American president. I've just counted them on my fingers. My first was Truman. Have I left anyone out?

Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush. Hang on, That makes Obama the twelfth. So I did miscount. I believe I skipped straight from Kennedy to Nixon. Sorry, LBJ!

There aren't any heroes in that list. By which, I mean anyone I regard as a hero. The one who comes closest is Ike, whom I respect for his speech on the military-industrial complex. And for his war record, obviously.

The only American president who makes my personal pantheon is Abe Lincoln.

The Times recently asked a panel of experts to rate the presidents in order of excellence. Lincoln came top, followed by Washington and FDR. The full list is here. Dubya ties with Nixon at the bottom, above Harrison (who died after catching a chill at his inauguration), Van Buren ( responsible for the genocide of native Americans), Pierce (who mismanaged everything and was disowned by his own party while in office) and Buchanan (worst of the worst, who failed to prevent the Civil War).

Ike comes in at number 6, by the way. He sent troops into Little Rock to enforce the desegregation of schools. He also desegregated the army. I hadn't realised just how radical and forceful a president he was.

Obama comes into office on a great wave of hope. Some of my friends have been disturbed by the messianic tone of his campaign. But "he's not the Messiah, he's just a....." Well, you know the rest.  Remember that he inherits the most god-awful mess: two misbegotten wars, an economic crisis at home and abroad, American prestige more battered and bruised than at any time I can remember.

Don't expect too much of him, folks.

[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2008-11-05 11:51 am (UTC)
Check out John Adams, he was a truly great man, and although he slipped when it came to having a bunch of little bastards with a black mistress, Thomas Jefferson was probably one of the last great Renaissance men.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-11-05 12:04 pm (UTC)
Jefferson is number 5 or 6 on the Times list of great presidents. I think he was the closest of them all to being a genius.

Those early presidents were a pretty remarkable bunch. But then the founding fathers as a whole were a pretty remarkable bunch.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2008-11-05 12:41 pm (UTC)
I'm not a fan of Obama- I'm not a fan of any politician- but I think the right man won.
Obama comes into office on a great wave of hope.
Remember that he inherits the most god-awful mess
Don't expect too much of him, folks.

Pretty much sums it up right there.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-11-05 01:16 pm (UTC)
It's a great moment in American history, but...
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2008-11-05 01:26 pm (UTC)
I have no love for Lincoln, though I have some sympathy for those who do. When the assassin's bullet found him, there were 600,000 dead as a result of his undeclared war and half the county lay in smoking ruins. Hardly the mark of a stellar presidency, in my opinion.

I also don't think that mass deportation was the answer to the African-American 'problem'. Even the much maligned Jefferson had a better solution than that.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-11-05 01:55 pm (UTC)
I have to admit I've never studied Lincoln that closely. I'm responding to the myth.

And I love the Gettysburg Address.
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From: ex_redrain
2008-11-05 02:12 pm (UTC)
You know more about American presidents than the generation behind me, and possibly even my own generation! Clinton will gain more credibility as time passes; he did do some good things, even though many remember him for his marital indiscretions. Much, unfortunately, is expected of Obama. Hopefully, the system will work with him, instead of against him.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-11-05 02:23 pm (UTC)
Obama will have Congress and the Senate on his side. That's probably good. There are going to be a lot of very difficult and controversial decisions ahead.
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2008-11-05 02:24 pm (UTC)
The US is in shambles. Obama inherits a mess that won't be undone in one or even two legislatures but I have hope that he can at least lay a foundation. He must be given time, patience and respect. Miracles are just that and won't happen. Unfortunately, people have a notorious need to be critical if things don't happen immediately. I hope the man surrounds himself with good and wise counselors.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-11-05 03:00 pm (UTC)
I see Joe Biden said in a speech before the election that people could expect some really unpopular, tough decisions. I like that approach. It reminds me of Churchill's promise of "blood, sweat, toil and tears".
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From: algabal
2008-11-05 02:40 pm (UTC)
I like the way you write about American affairs.

All too often Europeans talk about Americans in the most hideously patronizing way, as if we were some sort of anthropological experiment for them to poke and prode at.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-11-05 03:08 pm (UTC)

I was married to an American for 13 years and my kids are half-American (and one sixteenth Cherokee). I've spent time in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

I particularly love Kentucky. If my first marriage had lasted I might well have wound up living there.
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[User Picture]From: bob924
2008-11-05 03:30 pm (UTC)


Your post inspired me to reflect on my past presidents, as well. There has been a lot of change ... and lots more to come!

Edited at 2008-11-05 03:31 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-11-05 04:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Thanks

I think historians may well mark this down as the real beginning of the 21st century.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2008-11-05 05:12 pm (UTC)
The only American president who makes my personal pantheon is Abe Lincoln.

I count John Adams. I have a dollar coin of him with the items I keep as a kind of shrine.

Remember that he inherits the most god-awful mess: two misbegotten wars, an economic crisis at home and abroad, American prestige more battered and bruised than at any time I can remember.

Which is why it mattered to me that last night in his acceptance speech, he made a point of stating that he was not some kind of messianic fix for the country or the world—which was only reasonable, but I can think of other candidates who might simply have promised the holy city of God on a platter. Obama's presidency may be nothing more than four years of relentless damage control. But I'd still rather have someone who was trying than blithely spinning the damage on.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-11-05 07:41 pm (UTC)
I just read an article about Samuel Adams, John's brother. He was a remarkable man too.

Obama's victory speech was very well judged. The man has gravitas.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2008-11-05 05:32 pm (UTC)
He's got a tough old mess on his hands, but I think the key lies in the fact that he knows that. If he can succeed in pulling our collective cookies out of the fire, I think it's the fact that he knows what he's getting into that will make the crucial difference.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-11-05 07:45 pm (UTC)
It's a terrible job he's taken on. Some things may be beyond fixing- or at least beyond the power of any politician to fix. People may not thank him for some of the things he'll find he has to do.
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