The fine line between magnanimous and pusillanimous

George W. BushI’m not sure which side of the line this very generous biography of George W. Bush from President Obama’s version of the official White House site is on, but I do know it’s close to the line.

To be fair, a collection of brief biographical essays on our 44 presidents, published on the official White House website, is not the place for political attacks. But at times this essay goes beyond generous, and in fact beyond belief. Forget the audacity of hope; I want an explanation for the audacity of the claim that Bush worked to “conserve our environment.” And, sorry, but I have to read between the lines of sentences like this one: “Because President Bush believed the strength of America lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens, he supported programs that encourage individuals to help their neighbors in need.” Translation: Bush mercilessly cut funding to government programs that help those who need it most.

But the Bush years are over. It’s time to look forward. I’m willing to keep looking forward, as long as someone else remembers to look backward, specifically into such things as who was responsible for the United States engaging in torture, and whether or not war crimes were committed.

Like I said, I’ll leave that to someone else (say, a special prosecutor appointed by the Obama Administration). Meanwhile, I’ll focus on more important things, like Martin Van Buren’s bitchin’ muttonchops. Why the hell haven’t those made a comeback?

Muttonchops Van Buren

Yes he is. (Well, almost.)

President Barack ObamaIn just 3 short hours, as I write this, Barack Obama will be sworn in as 44th President of the United States of America, ushering in a new era in more ways than I can describe. I’ll be watching the proceedings on MSNBC.

No president in recent memory has entered office with such a high approval rating (83%), but no president ever has entered office with as many hopes and expectations riding on his shoulders. He’s uniquely qualified to be the man in this time, in this place, however, and if anyone can do it, he can.

We can.

It’s going to be an interesting four years…

Reading presidential body language

Ex-, current and soon-to-be Presidents

As just about everyone who pays attention probably knows by now, the Bush White House today convened a Presidents Club luncheon, consisting of the 3 surviving ex-presidents, the White House’s current occupant, and Barack Obama, who in less than three weeks will be setting up shop in the Oval Office.

I find the photo above to be fascinating as a study in body language. George W. Bush stands front and center, but seems nervously out-of-place, with his awkward smirk and cocked left foot. Barack Obama is both leaning and looking away from the current president, speaking with his father. There is a strange stiffness in his comportment, as if simply standing in close proximity to “Dubya” is creating negative energy. GHWB stands at the end, hand outstretched in mid-sentence, in a position that suggests either patting a child on the head or pushing them away.

Bill Clinton stands grinning wistfully, hands behind his back, contemplating, perhaps, his own personal history (and I mean personal) in the very room in which the five men now stand.

And Jimmy Carter knows exactly what’s on Bill’s mind.

I’ll leave you to ponder the merits, or lack thereof, of my decision to omit an apostrophe in the phrase “Presidents Club.”

The Internet President

As a “web guy,” I now have even more reason to like Barack Obama as a soon-to-be-president than I did already. His website was no small part of his extremely effective and well-organized campaign, and I am pleased to see that he plans to continue to use the Internet as a core component of his approach to governing once he takes office. To wit:, the official site of the “Obama-Biden Transition Project.”

As I’ve been saying for the past couple weeks, in a to-the-point if less-than-genteel way, he’s got his shit together. And as they say in Australia, “good on him.” 2009 is going to be an interesting year.

Ralph Nader is a douchebag

Ralph Nader is a douchebagRalph Nader used to have a good reputation. He spoke for those who were rarely spoken for, and represented the interests of those who didn’t have the resources to represent themselves.

And then he ran for president.

Back in the early days of 2000, when it seemed nearly impossible that an inarticulate failed businessman and death-penalty-championing former Texas governor could become president, I actually supported Nader’s campaign. He represented something strikingly different from all of the political insiders the major parties had to offer. “Bush and Gore make me want to Ralph” actually seemed to make sense. But in the end my gut instincts kicked in, and I colored in the little oval for Gore. Not that it mattered.

And then he ran for president again.

By this point, the few loyal Naderites who tipped the 2000 election had wised up along with the rest of us, and his showing in 2004 was as feeble as it deserved to be.

You might think everyone in the country now realizes the futility of a Nader presidential bid (even as a spoiler). But it looks like at least one person still thinks he has a chance.

Things are different this year, though. Anti-Republican sentiment has finally risen to a level commensurate with the havoc their failed policies have wreaked upon us. The Democrats have not just one (which in itself would be a big deal) but two viable candidates who are capable of generating genuine enthusiasm, and both of whom would, if elected, be an historic first. Ralph, this time around, you really have no chance. What compels you to waste your time and money (and potentially other people’s money) like this, not to mention squandering your once noble reputation? I guess in a way, Ralph really is a mirror of America itself. We’ll see in November just how true that is.