Something completely different

Editorial Page Editor
Perhaps it would be a bit much to quote from the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new!” How about Monty Python? “And Now For Something Completely Different….”
    There is a tension in the air today between two ways of viewing the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States. On the one hand you have thousands upon thousands who have scraped and planned and arranged to be in Washington — or the millions upon millions who will be watching from a distance and with them in spirit — who are fairly vibrating, resonating with communal anticipation. This includes elderly black folk who are praising God because they never thought they’d see the day. It contains — just barely, given the magnitude of their excitement — young people of all colors who left school and jobs and suspended their lives for a year and more to work toward this day. And more conventionally, it includes Democrats who are as thrilled as any group of partisans have ever been that their guy is finally going to replace that other guy.
    On the other hand, there are those who think this is all a bit much, or more than a bit: Whoop-tee-do, they think. A guy won an election. He’s just this guy, you know. Meet the new boss; same as the old boss. Nothing changes: One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
    Some of the latter, jaded, unexcited group are Republicans. Pretty much all of them are white. There’s not necessarily anything bad about them; they don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade. They just sort of want it over with. As Kathleen Parker suggests in the column on the facing page, there’s just so much earnestness and idealistic hoorah that one thinking person can possibly stand as we stride forth into this new age. That doesn’t make Ms. Parker a bad person. And I know that neither she nor the others in the “this is all a bit much” set are bad people, because, well, I’m sort of one of them.
    Or at least, I was. In the last few days, I changed my mind. The cynics are wrong, and the folks who just can’t contain themselves have it exactly right.
    I wrote the editorial above. I went into it as a chore that needed to get done and out of the way — one of those obligatory editorials you sometimes do, not because you had something you and your colleagues on the editorial board were burning to say, but because the particular moment in history demanded that you take note and say something.
    You may think that writing an editorial is about figuring out how to say what you already know you think. And often it is. But sometimes, it’s a process in which you discover what you think. That’s what happened here. The more I looked and read and reflected upon where we are as a nation and how and why we got here, the more I realized how significant this inauguration is, and how it differed from the previous 13 of my lifetime.
    No, it’s not that he’s a black guy. Yes, that’s a huge milestone for the country, and worth celebrating, but if you focus too much on that you miss just how different this moment is. As I said in the editorial, the nation chose much more than a racial first in this election: “It chose youth. It chose intellect. It chose pragmatism over the constant ideological bickering of recent years. It chose the promise of action rather than stalemate. It chose, in a word, change.”
    Yes, any new president represents change. But this change is generational, and attitudinal, and fundamental. The closest thing in my lifetime was when the generation of Dwight Eisenhower handed off to the generation of John F. Kennedy, but even that falls short. In choosing Barack Obama, the nation really took a risk and got out of its comfort zone. For Democrats, the safe and obvious choice was Hillary Clinton, or someone like Joe Biden (a point that underlines Mr. Obama’s wisdom in choosing his running mate, a move that made the risk more palatable). In the general election, even the “maverick” opponent was the safer, more comfortable, more conventional choice.
    This country decided it had had enough of the kinds of politics and government that we’ve had up to now. It chose a man who was practically a novice in politics and government — which made him untainted, but also meant he had almost no relevant experience. And yet, he possessed the eloquence and demeanor and intellect and attitude that persuaded us that he could deliver on the promised change.
    And you know what? I think he can, and will. I’ve seen proof. One example, which speaks volumes: his decision to pull South Carolina’s own Sen. Lindsey Graham — John McCain’s closest acolyte, leading advocate of our nation’s presence in Iraq — into his circle of foreign policy advisers. By sending Sen. Graham with Sen. Biden to Iraq and Afghanistan, and then appearing with both men to draw attention to the fact, explaining that he was “drafting” Sen. Graham “as one of our counselors in dealing with foreign policy,” the president-elect charted new ground. He threw out the rule book of partisan and ideological convention, and he did so in the pursuit of the very best ideas, the ones most likely to serve the nation and its interests and allies going forward.
    I’ve never seen anything like this, and neither have you. This is something completely different, and yet something that, after today, we’re going to see a lot more of. And that’s a wonderful thing for this country. It’s worth getting really excited about.

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16 thoughts on “Something completely different

  1. p.m.

    It’s not that he’s a black guy?
    Think again. If he were a white guy, and that were the only difference, he wouldn’t have won the Democratic nomination, much less the presidency.

  2. Brad Warthen

    Hmmm… p.m., I’m mulling over your assertion that a white guy wouldn’t have won the nomination…
    Seems like I recall that occasionally in the past, white guys HAVE won the Democratic nomination. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s not only possible, but likely, that a white guy will win it in the future (if Hillary lets him, that is).

  3. WorkingTommyC

    Can anyone be surprised at Lindsey Graham’s multi-aceted brown-nosing? His ambitions have been apparent from the beginning. He has long been a two-bit version of Woody Allen’s “Zelig” posing as a conservative at first and making a name for himself among real conservatives in the House when he went after Clinton. After that, he came into the company of, and turned into, John McCain, a liberal centrist RINO who plays in the center so that he can leverage a few votes in gangs of various numbers holding political principles hostage to his ambition to wield as much power as a Senator can. Now that Obama is THE MAN, Lindsey Graham–a small, effeminate, insignificant little man when left alone–is slowly turning into an apostle of the Messiah, blessing all the ONE’s actions and seeking to become the most important token RINO in the Obama administration. Graham is, in a word, pathetic. Your support of him is even more pathetic.

  4. p.m.

    I didn’t say a white guy wouldn’t have won the nomination, Brad. I said Barack Obama wouldn’t have won the nomination were he a white guy. Big difference. The media would skewer a white guy named Barack Hussein Obama with a preacher who said “God d*mn America.”
    But that stretches the point almost around a corner. Here’s the rub. You say the nation chose youth and intellect, but actually, it chose young, black intellect. Hollywood wanted that, and the MSM, to prove a point. It probably even helped Obama’s cause that he had what seemed exactly the wrong name (“oh, look, we’re even debunking racial profiling”).
    Besides, who was the young white intellectual in the race? Hillary? Mitt Romney?
    Yes, in the past, white guys have won the Democratic nomination. But this was not the past. This is the time of Rich, Randy, Karen, their compatriots and Obama, not Hillary, not McCain, not Lee, not me. The mantra was change, not Clinton retro.
    America wanted not its second black president named Clinton, but its first genuinely black president, and Obama presented the electorate with its first real chance at that, because he didn’t wear his race on his sleeve, and, like Lee said above, because his negatives, which would have doomed a white guy, didn’t stick, mostly because too many people just didn’t want them to.

  5. Workin' Tommy C

    Obama is WHITE!
    Well, he’s just as white as he is black. What kind of “first” President does that make him, then–and why’s the color such a big deal, anyway?
    If we’d elected Walter Williams (a true Constitutionalist whom I’d vote for in a heartbeat over the fascists/socialists in the two major parties) I doubt that Brad and all the other liberals and neo-cons would be so starry-eyed right now.

  6. Brad Warthen

    “Brad and the other liberals…” Whaddaya gonna do with somebody who thinks I’m a liberal? bud, Phillip, somebody out there — explain how off-base this guy is…
    Speaking of which, bud, where you at?, as Dennis Quaid said so often in “The Big Easy.” I believe you said on another post you liked this column, but you didn’t post anything here. I’m feeling unappreciated. Sniff.
    Back to our friend “Working Tommy” — I’m torn between unpublishing his first comment above for violating the civility standard, and answering it. I think I’ll answer it, because he expresses something you hear a lot from ideologues — mostly on the right, but some liberals, too — that Lindsey Graham is inconsistent.
    No, he isn’t, and I’ll tell you how I know: He almost always agrees with me. What he is NOT is yet another ideological idiot who buys his opinions as a matched set off the shelf.
    When you see both modern “liberalism” and modern “conservatism” as absurdly inconsistent bundles of unrelated ideas and attitudes, as I do, the only person who seems consistently rational is the person who thinks for himself and does not surrender his brain to the fashions of either right or left. And Lindsey Graham THINKS, therefore the ideologues hate him for what they regard as his blasphemous heterodoxy.
    Lindsey Graham is one of a very few active politicians who make me think, when talking to them, “This guy’s smarter than I am.” And I really, really appreciate that quality in a politician, especially one as consistently principled as I know Lindsey Graham to be.

  7. marconi

    Told you should just write the blog and not respond to comments. Everytime you try to talk to someone it’s always “sorry this” and “forgive me that” and “I’m not worthy”…
    It’s like all miserable orthodoxies…they’re SO DEPRESSING…

  8. p.m.

    Gosh, Brad, if Graham almost always agrees with you, I guess that explains why the Republican Party is in so much trouble.
    Maybe he thinks you’re smarter than everybody else, too.

  9. Workin' Tommy C

    Brad, let me clarify: when I refer to someone a liberal–in the modern sense of the word–I mean it as in “socialist.” I’ll admit it was a bit of an assumption on my part but it seems a reasonably safe bet.
    Perhaps, though, you’d rather be known as a neo-con, as in “fascist.” In your case, you may have eclectically chosen positions from those two schools of thought. In my opinion, there’s not a huge difference in the various forms of tyranny.
    You can’t figure me out because you have no clue about the U.S. Constitution as a binding contract instead of the idiotic perversion of a “living document” promoted by the oligarchial U.S. Supreme Court.
    If the Constitution is the basis for our law in this country in terms of limits of power on the Federal government (which it is) and assignment of specific powers to the Federal government (which it does), then that’s where I’m coming from.
    If you’re for the bailouts as Lindsey Graham as been, you’re probably either a socialist or a fascist (there’s plenty of overlap as previously noted) and either one of those is not American.
    Such matters as the bail-outs and amnesty for illegals are just two facets of corporate welfare and fascism with the added bonus of the socialist nationalizing of banking and perhaps other industries.
    If you like where this country is headed now, I think that is your problem, not mine. Your arbitrary labeling of me as an “ideologue,” strangely enough, doesn’t deter me from taking a stand on the basis of the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution, and promoting a nation of laws and consent of the governed.
    As for dealing with me and Constitutional issues, I really doubt you have that capacity (through choice and close-mindedness vs. mental incapability on your part).

  10. gayguy

    Workin’ Tommy C(cute handle),
    One way I try to figure out enigmas such as yourself,is by asking if you liked Diana Ross more when she was with The Supremes or solo.Also what did you think of the movie,”Mahogany”.
    BTW:I also hate arbitrary labeling.

  11. Workin' Tommy C

    With the Supremes but the oldie’s station I used to listen to played her hits WAY too often as if there were so few other Mo-Town artists they could have added to the mix. I enjoy hearing her stuff again now but it’s taken a long break.
    I never saw “Mahogany” but I liked the song.

  12. gaygay

    You sound like a nice man,and I agree with you about MoTown,what a catalog…It’s a shame you don’t hear much at all from Stax.They put out some great records back in the day…

  13. Lee Muller

    Fidel Castro ‘Believes in Obama’
    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 (AP)
    HAVANA —
    Fidel Castro watched the U.S. inauguration on television and said Wednesday that Barack Obama seems “like a man who is absolutely sincere,” Argentina’s president said after meeting with the ailing Cuban icon.
    “Fidel believes in Obama,” Cristina Fernandez said.
    The meeting with Fernandez, just before she ended a four-day visit to Cuba, dispelled persistent rumors that the 82-year-old Castro had suffered a stroke or lapsed into a coma in recent days.
    “I was with Fidel about an hour or more,” she told reporters at the airport as she left. “We were chatting, conversing. He looked good.”
    Hours later, Castro issued his own account of the meeting in a brief essay that called Obama “honest” in his ideas.
    Fernandez said Castro wore the track suit that has become his trademark since he fell ill in July 2006 and vanished from public view. A spokesman said the two met alone.
    “He told me he had followed the inauguration of Barack Obama very closely, that he had watched the inauguration on television all day,” Fernandez said. “He had a very good perception of President Obama.”
    Fernandez said Castro called Obama “a man who seems absolutely sincere,” who believes strongly in his ideas “and who hopefully can carry them out.”
    Posted on a government Web site, Castro’s essay was his first such writing since Dec. 15. The ailing leader’s lengthy silence had fueled speculation his health had taken a turn for the worse.
    I wonder if ACORN got an absentee ballot for Fidel Castro.


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