The political postscript to all the hugs, kisses, personal Oval Office desk drawer notes and backslaps between POTUS 43 and POTUS 44 isn't exactly a warm, Pete Seeger, sing-along scene.
I went to high school with Pete's Daughter, Mika; he was a great icon and true believer in harmony back then and still is, at a spry 90, leading a million-plus citizens in song last Sunday in DC.
But partisans from former and current administrations are striking a very different tone. The smell of fresh upholstery hasn't even worn off the new, improved White House website yet and already there's been ugly griping, whining, dissing, and rancor that almost makes the Caroline Kennedy whack-a-mole rumor fiasco seem tame.
On the not-Air Force One plane ride back to Texas Jan. 20th, some loyal George W. Bush aides cut loose over the clear smack Mr. Obama took at his predecessor throughout the inaugural speech."There were a few sharp elbows that really rankled and...(the incoming Prez was) not as magnanimous as the occasion called for," said whip smart down-home Texas W gal Karen Hughes, throwing her own elbow. President Obama "really missed an opportunity to be as big as the occasion." But she was just winding up. Some parts of the speech, she went on to say, were "fundamentally unfair and dishonest."
Mr. Bush's chief White House speechwriter said, "It was an ungracious inaugural."
It was, as the political writers say when they dip into their cliche drawer, a bare-knuckle inaugural address, no doubt about it. Mr. Obama's Doberman, Rahm Emanuel, no stranger to unpadded fists himself, responded that his boss was just "turning the page." Then he threw this hard left: "If they (the Bush folks) didn't know that was the judgment of people, then their subscription to the newspapers was canceled over the last three years."
Ouch. That shot landed squarely on Hughes et al and also kinda glanced off those of us at newspapers, where canceled subscriptions is a sore subject these days. Couldn't he have said "their Blackberrys were turned off"? They surely had them.
On this one, I'm standing, booted and bow-legged, with the Crawford cabal. They're out, gone. They get to complain at their leisure -- and without serious consequence -- because leisure is where the departed president is now living. Their beefing about Mr. Obama doesn't cost anyone, really. Criticism of the inaugural speech isn't going to bring back Dick Cheney or Don Rumsfeld, no matter how hard they pick that nit.
So Mr. Obama's supporters, both paid and unpaid, should leave it alone.
At the same time, kicking Mr. Bush now won't have any real effect, either. Unlike Richard Nixon, who it turned out we DID have to kick around after his failed gubernatorial bid in 1962, the former President isn't likely to come back into the public spotlight; he never looked like he craved it the way some of his predecessors have and he doesn't seem like he wants to try for a senior statesman-style comeback or the million dollar speaking tours. Even his hey!-I-was-the-smart-one/ supposed-to-succeed-dad brother, Jeb, decided not to run for the Florida Senate.
And the senior Mr. Bush looked a little frail at the ceremonies this week.
The Bush dynasty is probably done. Let it go. And, by the way, G.W. himself really was nothing but gracious to the new president in his last weeks in office; his glowing comments about the historical moment or Mr. Obama's daughters, seemed genuine and heartfelt.
Brawling over speeches, like the infamous but still unclear vandalism scandal that blew up when Mr. Bush took over from Bill Clinton (remember the alleged "missing w's" on White House keyboards?) isn't worth the trouble. Obama officials have more important things to do.
The bone of Mr. Bush's legacy will be gnawed over by the dogs of history and eventually there'll be a judgment.
But until then, people in their new positions of responsibility should just let the contrails of the plane ride to Texas dissipate.
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