Tomorrow, Americans are expected to reflect on the things they are thankful for – in addition to not being the turkey they’ll be carving up. And at least one American is thankful for not being the U.S. President. In an article in Salon.com today, columnist Joan Walsh writes:
I have a lot to give thanks for this Thanksgiving, but I find myself particularly grateful for one thing: I’m not President Obama. From Arianna Huffington on his left, warning that rising unemployment could be “Obama’s Katrina,” to the ever-crazier Glenn Beck on his right, threatening to desecrate the memory of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with an anti-Obama March on Washington 37 years to the day after King’s triumphant convening: His critics are sparing no rhetorical excess in their rush to denounce the president.
She goes on to add her voice to the crescendo of discontent. She objects to sending more troops to Afghanistan. She wants another financial stimulus package, which she thinks will stem the tide of unemployment. And so on.
As one of those people Americans call “progressives,” I also have complaints about the Obama administration. Obama’s decision to continue the Bush bailout of financial institutions sticks in my craw, for example. His wishy-washy approach to health care reform is another sore point. And don’t get me started on the idiotic waste of money (and lives!) in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If I were President, I would…
But wait a minute. That might be the one thing I would want least in life. Not even Ben Bernanke’s printing presses could churn out enough money to make me take that job. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!
In Jamaica, they have a saying that “one man’s rise is another man’s downfall.” And it is absolutely true in America. Whatever the government does to help one group is sure to upset – make that enrage – some other group. Reform health care to help the uninsured and you dash the get-rich-quick hopes of all those investors in health insurance companies, for example. Not to mention the millionaire executives and their minions who derive a living from the afflictions of their fellow citizens. Or the politicians whose campaign chests are swollen with contributions from the health care industry.
Bring home the troops and you take money – lots and lots of money – out of the pockets of the war profiteers, and you threaten the jobs of hundreds of thousands of “defense industry” employees.
Refuse to bail out Wall Street, and you ravage the pension plans and other investments of millions of people – not only in America but also in far-away places like Iceland. The repercussions would be felt around the world, adding to the misery of the starving millions. Bail out Wall Street and you fatten the pigs feeding at the financial trough, infuriating the helpless masses who are losing their homes and jobs.
Print money and distribute it with abandon and you dig a deep hole for succeeding generations (in addition to undermining the value of the dollar and diminishing the savings of thrifty Americans). Increase taxes and you hobble consumer spending and the entrepreneurial activity that would create jobs. I could go on and on, but I am sure you get the idea by now.
The bottom line is – as President – you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. And as more groups get teed off, your approval rating sinks lower and lower…
But here’s one thing Americans can be thankful for: It’s Obama and Joe Biden who are steering the ship of state through this tempest, not George Bush and Dick Cheney – or John McCain and Sarah Palin.
On this Thanksgiving, I remain grateful Obama is in the White House. I’m thankful Dick Cheney is flapping his gums as a private citizen, not the most powerful man in the world. I believe in Obama’s intelligence and decency. Like a lot of liberals, I believe he shares “our” values; I’ve just never been entirely sure he has either the political courage or savvy it takes to act on them, quite yet.
Obama and his crew are obviously not perfect (who is?), but compare them with the possible alternatives and you will probably breathe a sigh of relief as you dig into that turkey tomorrow.