Setting the Bar Too High


(Danville, California)

He may be President-elect, but get ready for Barack Obama, the human being. He will be the Constitutionally-restricted President of the United States - restricted not by choice and not by opposition, but simply by the way the Constitution works with its system of checks and balances. He is not, despite all the hype, Superman! No one is.

I know people will criticize me for being a “wet blanket.” I am the dark cloud hovering over all the euphoria and enthusiasm around Obama’s resounding victory Tuesday night. I will be accused of being too negative.

So be it. I am guilty of being a realist; but I’ve covered politics for too long and worked in politics enough that I know of what I speak.

Let me rewind the videotape to November, 1976. Jimmy Carter was a very inspiring speaker, too, talking about how he wanted "to be a President as decent and honest as the American people.” On the heels of Watergate, the Nixon resignation, the Ford pardon, the end of the Vietnam War, rampant inflation and general public disgust with Washington, the country was ready for a breath of fresh air. It was ready for new ideas and uplifting speeches from an inspiring young man from Georgia.

The United States selected Carter, a good-hearted, born-again-Christian farmer from Georgia. He was a man of great intellect and noble intentions. He also came with big Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Yet, he bombed as President and was voted out in a landslide four years later.

The question now is what went wrong then? And could it happen again?

As I said, Obama is not Superman. (Indeed, no President has been.) Neither are Presidents kings; nor are they dictators. They can’t always have it their way. First of all, the odds are stacked against them, no matter the Congressional margins of their own party’s majority. There are 535 members of Congress. They all have 534 “fig leaves” to hide behind when things go wrong. The President has no such luxury. The Oval Office has no corners in which to hide.

Sometimes Presidents have to act in the best interests of the nation, and not those of their parties. That can be devastating to their careers. When President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974, he probably sealed his own fate. The public was furious; Democrats in Congress cried foul.

Years later, none other than Sen. Ted Kennedy presented Ford with the “Profiles in Courage Award,” named in honor of the late President John Kennedy. Why? Because in hindsight, Kennedy, a tough partisan critic of Ford on the pardon, years later came to realize it had been the right decision for the nation. Kennedy admitted he was wrong at the time and that Ford was right to declare the pardon in hopes of healing the nation. Of course, this was long after Ford had lost his bid for reelection.

Obama will be faced with lots of cases when he, as President, will simply have to stand alone. He will also face members of Congress from his own party who oppose his agenda. Remember, it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who scuttled the Clintons' health care reform agenda in the early 90s. Party infighting and power struggles can be really damaging.

That’s not to say Obama won’t be successful. I hope he succeeds in protecting this country and, most of all, in improving the troubled economy. We all want to succeed and prosper, regardless of party.

Obama won’t be changing into a red cape in a phone booth on January 20. First of all, are there any phone booths left? Second, he will put on his suit and will tie his tie like any other fallible human being, as he prepares to take the oath of office.

Our expectations should not be dampened by Obama's idealism, but by the realism that he is much like the rest of us.

I’ll be at the Inaugural. Until then, keep checking in at

Thank Heaven for the checks and balances. If Obama could implement every item of the agenda he presented during his campaign, the country would be pulled irretrievably too far into Socialism with all of its attendant ills: Lack of incentive, unfair redistribution of wealth, suppression of individual liberties, etc., etc. The framers of the Constitution "did good" when they did well.

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