The Collegian
Sunday, June 16, 2024

A New Look at the Presidency

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery takes about 10 minutes from start to finish. The tomb guards engage in a precise routine with unrivaled execution, featuring 21 second intervals of rest and 21 step increments across the tomb.

The changing of the guard at the White House, on the other hand, takes nearly three months from the time of the election. It consists of innumerable press conferences and messy political wrangling, and concludes with a made-for-show-business inauguration ceremony. Then, mercifully, we can move forward addressing the large scope of problems that we as a country face.

As the sun sets on the Bush presidency, a look back at the last eight years seems inevitable. The Bush-led White House will go down as one of the most oft-criticized and politically divisive administrations in history. The strictures and structures of this column prevent me from coming anywhere near an exhaustive list of Bush critiques. Liberals thought he was stupid. Conservatives felt he spent too much. Democrats thought he was unwilling to compromise. Republicans thought he compromised too much. His detractors charged him with ruining the economy. His defenders credited him with keeping us safe post-9/11. The list goes on ad nauseam.

At times it feels like the very mention of the man's name sparks disagreement. In fact, it seems that the only thing Americans can come to any sort of consensus on is that he is at least a good guy (72 percent of Americans feel this way). Perhaps people are softening up, but that number was somewhat surprising to me. In what felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone, even renowned Bush critic Marc Lamont Hill, after Bush's final press conference, said about Bush: "One of the things I came away with is someone who, despite everything else truly loves America."

Wow, it appears we have come a long way from the days of Bush haters chanting their mantra of Bush lied and people died.

While Bush rode out his last few lame-duck days in office, Americans were proving themselves marginally capable of rising above hate politics. This was a trend for the better. Obama will enjoy many more advantages than Bush had during his years in office, including a less-hostile press corps. Regardless, even opponents of Obama should hold themselves to a higher standard. The Clinton and Bush eras featured unrivaled condescension from Republicans and Democrats respectively.

As a conservative, I hope as we move forward that the Obama administration will not be bogged down by smear attacks from the right. This is not to discourage disagreements with the Obama Administration -- far from it in fact. Obama must be engaged in the policy realm and challenged with substantive alternatives and solutions. We face a potentially drastic turning point in our country and rigorous debate becomes more necessary by the day.

Conservatives must work hard to advance workable policies to address our country's needs without succumbing to mocking the intelligence of our rivals. As an important corollary, those on the left must also work to remain reasonable in acknowledging policy debates and not use every disagreement as an opportunity to cry foul play or bemoan different opinions.

Obama won on account of his ability to vocalize liberalism and make it appealing to the masses. Conservatives need to rise up and meet that challenge during the coming years. Here's to a 2009 that features more debate in the Main Streets of America than mudslinging in the swampy humidity of Washington.

Contact columnist Jarrett Dieterle at jarrett.dieterle@richmond.edu

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