When The West Wing was on television during the dark years of the George W. Bush administration, I always used to think (lament, really), "Why can't we have a president like Josiah Bartlet?" The guy was so sensible. He did the right things for the right reasons, and if people didn't like it, he told them to go hang. Of course, it's a known known that "television reality" is the ultimate oxymoron, and I understood that Bartlet led in a perfect world of elegantly resolved TV conflict. At the same time, I understood that the right-wing noisemakers who railed against the show no doubt breathed weekly sighs of relief that Bartlet was only a TV president and not, thank God, the real deal.
Lately I've been re-watching The West Wing, and I can tell you that it's a whole different experience, both in the sense of the historic distance that even a few years have lent and, especially, when viewed through the comparative filter of our current president. The thing that comes through loud and clear (watch it yourself and see if you don't agree) is that we do, now, in fact have Bartlet for President. Our real-life president, Barack Obama, is decisive like Bartlet, talks straight like Bartlet, does the right things for the right reasons, and suffers no fools. Well, that's my opinion, and I know it's one shared by others, but that's not the point of this screed.
Here's the point of this screed: Fans of Obama, stop apologizing for him!
It's easy to feel the need -- so easy, when every day he's being attacked by right-wing noisemakers who, to be sure, do not share my high esteem for our president. With all that vitriol and venom raining down on us from the right, it's easy for us lefties to feel besieged and beset. It's easy for us to end up as apologists (at least inner, emotional apologists) for the guy we elected with such enthusiasm, faith and, yes, hope. But let's not forget the determining characteristic of right-wing noisemakers: they make noise.
They have to make noise, folks. Their jobs depend on it. Even if they didn't hew to their ideological bent (they do; I'll give them that), they'd still have to crank up the hysteria to eleven, for the simple reason that it's how they keep their audience. They have to shout, and keep shouting, if they hope to be heard over the NASCAR.
And why don't we on the left do the same? Why is our hysterical ranting more on the order of aggrieved hand wringing than ad hominem shrieking? Because liberals are different. Remember how often the words "liberal" and "intellectual" are put together? We are intellectual. We're smarter than the right. We always have been, and we've always known it. We are blessed (some would say cursed) with both self-awareness and other-awareness. "Agree to disagree" is a liberal idea; to conservatives, it's a non-starter. Therefore, hysterical attacks on the right by the left can never work, because liberal listeners and readers will always say (as a function of their liberal upbringing), "Now hang on. Be fair." The right doesn't care about fair. It didn't care when it was in power, and it doesn't care now. And again, I think this is at least partly a function of what sells. Sub-logical vituperation works on the right; liberal rabble are not thus roused.
But we should be roused. We should be shouting righteous indignation at every Beck-O'Reilly-Tea Party departure from reason and sanity we encounter. We should defend our president. Above all, we should stop apologizing for Obama. He's doing much of what he set out to do -- so much of what we'd hoped he'd do -- in the face of relentless, and relentlessly unfair, attack from the right. I think he's doing a great job, and I can't wait to vote for him again.
Therefore, I'm done lamenting that the right wing can't come to its senses and see that Obama is a strong, sensible, rational, moral leader (just like Jed Bartlet!) making the very best of a very bad situation. I no longer hope for change from the right, for I understand that that would be both bad politics and bad marketing. But I can hope for change from within myself. I can stop mentally telling Fox News, "You just don't get it." Of course they don't get it. I shouldn't expect them to. And if you love Obama (and, like me, are not ashamed to use so strong a word), then you shouldn't, too. Just be proud of the president we have, and be glad that, for once in a lifetime, television reality and real reality conform.
We don't need Bartlet for President. We've got him already.
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