12/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How Obama Upended My Life of Diminished Expectations and Cynical Regret

I have to say, I've been disgusted by most presidential candidates in my lifetime, bored by the rest and only impressed by one, Clinton. But with Clinton, you sensed calculation was the primary motor and everything else -- his compassion, leadership, et al -- were all in service of that.

With Obama, I kept waiting for him to finally reveal himself as one of the two types we've all come to know and loathe -- the knucklehead or the sociopath... Jerry Lewis or Richard III. Reagan, brilliantly, was both -- with the emphasis on Jerry. Clinton also conjoined the two -- with maybe a tip to Richard, while the two Bushes tried hard for the same splice but never finished reading the play and seemed gleefully suited to clowning anyhow.

Up and down the long campaign trail, Obama was tested so we might finally stamp him as one or the other and get on with our lives of diminished expectations and cynical regret. And he just kept... rising. It was and is incredible. Though I admit I won't really relax for a while.

We are the children of bullets in 1963 and 1968; of Watergate; of fake small town morning in America happy psycho Actor President and so on and on and on. The best I ever dared to hope for was another shrewd, liberal, narcissist who'd govern with a reptilian brain but a human heart.

I never expected to see someone in that job who I feel is not only smarter, kinder, and more hard-working than me (trust me -- not a high bar) but inspires us all to be more like him. To actually stop and ask, with zero irony, how would Obama handle this setback or that insult? He would assess, be compassionate, strong, wise, deal with it directly, as if the whole world were listening... and rise.

Is it possible that the worst presidency of a republic can lead directly to the best? As I watch Obama rise, my hopes rising with him, I can only believe what my head and heart finally say in unison:


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