Don't fuck up
By Kevin Eggleston
Dear President-elect Obama, I know I should offer you congratulations on your election victory. You essentially had a landslide victory of Reagan ’84 and Johnson ’64 proportions. Though you won’t have a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate majority, at least SNL alum Al Franken might be in the Senate after the recount. That would be good. He can cover the funny while you get down to business. You might have won the election, but John McCain most definitely had the best comedy routine at the Al Smith Dinner. Just saying…
But if I’m going to be honest, I must offer my sincerest condolences for your promotion. A president hasn’t had to deal with such a clusterfuck of issues since Roosevelt in 1932. The economy is on life support, two wars are still raging in the Middle East, and terrorism poses a prominent threat. It’s like you’ve got to handle Roosevelt’s economic crisis, Nixon’s Vietnam dilemma, and Madison’s national security threats (those from the Brits, mind you) all at the same time. You also have to address a wee problem called The End Of The World As We Know It, a.k.a. climate change and reversing eight years of disastrous environmental and energy policies. Oh, and while you’re at it, at least half of the country expects you to be the next Lincoln or Kennedy or Jesus — or maybe all of them combined.
Now, all that Bush-residue is not your fault. But the impossibly high expectations? That’s definitely you. You traversed America holding those famous pep rallies and feeding crowds lines like, “I’m in this race not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation.” In your Denver acceptance speech, you pledged to cut taxes, end the war, and cure America’s addiction to Middle Eastern oil. Bill Clinton promised health care and welfare reform, and he only accomplished one — kinda.
You also have the presumption, the gall, the audacityito hope. You, Mr. President-elect, are no cynic. You have the earnestness and ideals of a Sorkin character and the political chops of a Clinton. You out-maneuvered both McCain and Hillary. You haveuncommon skills, intellectual curiosity, level-headedness, and a marvelous way with words. Your candidacy has inspired a palpable sense of hope in my generation — and I’m talking about a generation that is as jaded and sarcastic as it comes.
Sure, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called you “Obambi,” and a certain prominent Democratic senator I met in Denver said you needed to “get real.” Granted, Dowd isn’t known for her hopefulness, and the senator I spoke to was about as sober as David Hasselhoff. But many people think these two had a point. I disagree.
You ran for president with a new view of the world and a desire to bring America together. You come across as the real deal. Of course, you need to “get real” behind the scenes, buckle down Hillary-style, and do all the hard work that is necessary to ensure policy success. But you can still lead America to new levels of greatness and stay above the old political nonsense. You can get real while staying true to your mission at the same time. In The Audacity of Hope, you wrote about being fed up with the “psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation.” You want to “change the trajectory of America” like Reagan and Roosevelt. I’m warning you, you won’t have long to make these changes. First of all, the media’s love affair with your candidacy will give way to an eternal search for scandal faster than you can say “Whitewater.” Secondly, it is unfortunate but true that the fickle fancies of youth will fade if we don’t start seeing results within your first 100 days. If, God forbid, you pull a Spitzer or a Bill Clinton, I think America will lose its trust in politicians until the end of time. If you let your underlings rebel passive-aggressively, lose focus on the important issues, or submit to excessive, thoughtful waffling, you will only be letting your weaknesses overcome your strengths.
There is only one thing you can possibly do when expectations are this high, Mr. President-elect. You have to meet them. If you do, America will reach its greatest heights. If you don’t, I fear we shall suffer the agonizing decline of a nation with a lost sense of purpose.
Sincerely, Kevin Eggleston