By Tom Ehrich
Having recently binge-watched two seasons of “Scandal” and seven seasons of “West Wing,” plus “The American President” several times, I am now an expert on the American Presidency.
What to do about Syria? Summon “Josh Lyman” for a mumbled word. What to do about John Boehner and Republican obstructionists? Bring in “C.J. Craig.” How does the president fix Clinton avarice? Call “Olivia Pope.”
Better yet, have “Andrew Shepherd” fall in love with “Sydney Ellen Wade” and discover backbone through romance.
In other words, I don’t know a thing about the actual job of being US President. While I might have opinions about military action in Syria, the actual call is more than I can imagine making.
All I know is the impact the President has on me and my world, and how that impact intersects with my sense of American values and national purpose.
That is the basis on which I vote, and right now, sad to say, I would vote “No.” No to politicians who want to win elections more than they want the hard work of governing. No to politicians who don’t care how their obstructionism, adventurism, nihilism and opportunism undermine all that is valuable about the United States.
No to all of them — no to Reagan, a B-movie hack who sold magic dust and called it wisdom; no to the Bush family, idle country-clubbers who felt entitled to rule; no to Clinton, a smart guy with the self-control of a horny adolescent; no to Obama, who has abandoned us to Boehner, the Koch brothers, and assorted regressives.
I don’t know exactly what I would do differently. But the impact I see is dreadful: mounting unemployment and under-employment, a widening gap between rich and poor, paralyzed government, a “surveillance state” snooping in our homes, and relentless assaults on the poor and disadvantaged, on the vulnerable, on minorities, on soldiers and their families, on schools, on medical care.
It makes me think of an important philosophical concept known as “a lick.” I wish someone in government showed “a lick of sense” about what nurtures a healthy nation. I wish someone showed “a lick of compassion” for the vast majority who are struggling. I wish someone showed “a lick of courage” to stand up to Big Money and right-wing moralizers.
I am not wishing “Josiah Bartlett” were President. Real-world problems don’t get resolved in 43 minutes. But they do get addressed and often resolved, and not just passed down from one generation to the next.
Serious leaders take serious issues seriously. Let’s have a taste of that.
By Tom Ehrich