President Bush almost killed me. It's true, and I have the scars to prove it -- multiple scars that are part of the public record -- you saw them in magazines and on my show, and you can see them on my blog frequently -- no twelve year wait required.
It was 2000, and the Republican National Convention was on television. The whole affair felt something like a home invasion, with a chronically smirking and arrogant George W. Bush as ringleader. Not wishing to be robbed of my optimism and hope at the time -- or to tumble into depression and despair -- I shut off the TV and decided to go fishing.
I needed gear, so I went to the store and bought a few things, including a knife, which I used to cut the price tags off of the fishing poles.
Now, I could have stabbed myself 100 times in the hand and not managed to do the damage I did with that one poke to the inside of my middle finger. I went all out, though, and got everything -- skin, ligaments, tendons, nerves. Maximum impact, including a particularly nasty staph infection that almost left me dead.
That's my personal war story from the demoralizing Bush years, and probably a minor one, considering the 935 documented lies told by the Bush administration that thrust us into an unjust war, killing thousands of Iraqi civilians and nearly 4000 Americans. One near-death experience probably pales in comparison to the $9 trillion dollar debt heaped upon the collective back of America, or the gross war profiteering by corporate friends of Cheney and Bush, or even the $10 billion dollar third-quarter profit Exxon recently reported.
Still, it hurt like hell, and the scars and swelling are there as a reminder. I was right to feel repulsed by Bush. Nearly everything his administration has done or stood for in the years since has been tainted by lies and corruption.
I've stuck mostly to newspapers and internet news sites since Bush took office. It's less painful to read Bush's stumbling, dishonest commentary in print than it is to see it live and in color -- with all that cocky, cowboy arrogance -- the kind that declared "Mission Accomplished" in 2003 knowing full well that the "mission" was based on lies, and that the "accomplishment" would leave American troops in Iraq for years to come cleaning up the mess.
It's a new season, with an election on the horizon, but like many others I have felt burned up and burned out by politics. While I've never tripped over to the apathetic side, I have been leery of politicians in general, particularly those who claim they have what it takes to clean up the catastrophic mess that will be Bush's enduring legacy, and America's decades-long burden. I just don't want to be stabbed again, literally or figuratively.
Tentatively, I've begun to watch politics on television again, For the most part, outside of some very unfortunate and unnecessary mudslinging, I find the Democratic candidates surprisingly easy on the eyes. When they break away from the sick political disease of backbiting, their optimistic messages of real change, relief, and hope resonate more clearly.
Hillary Clinton is not light on political experience or plans. Her deep knowledge, assured confidence, and personal strength shines through her speeches. While some would deride her for her background, few can argue that it hasn't been substantial enough, or encompassing enough, to qualify her for the presidency, which is an argument that has been used against her chief opponent, Barack Obama.
Obama is invigorating. A silken-tongued master of hope-filled speech, an eloquent narrator of the American dream. "Yes we can," he says, and the cheering crowd, inspired, rises to its feet. His background is more eclectic, and his roots more exotic than Clinton's, but only two of his eleven years in politics were in the U.S. Senate. Is it enough? His proponents say it is, and even call his relative inexperience an asset -- there's no politics as usual if you take out the usual kind of politicians.
It's still early yet, but so far I find both candidates believable. They are different, with a different mix of talents to bring to the political table, but they both seem to have the passion, plans, drive, and intelligence I want in my next president.
Could a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket be our future? I hope so. I think America would benefit from the strengths of either individual, but if those strengths were combined, we might just have the Democratic powerhouse the country needs to turn itself around, and back into peace, prosperity and opportunity.
May they both release the desire to receive for oneself alone -- and save the world together.