Columns 2013

Another tarnished hero

I went to Hawaii for me godchild’s college graduation. It was wonderful yet I couldn’t wait to get back to Alaska where we know the air should not contain humidity and the sun does not necessarily mean warmth.  My happiness was quickly tempered by the worse cold anyone has ever had in the history of mankind, coupled with the news emanating from Washington DC.

You’d think by now we’d all be immune to what spews forth from that cesspool. We’ve endured stains on blue dresses, vice presidents shooting friends in the face, senators with inexplicably wide stances in public restrooms, and representatives sending pictures of their private parts to women expected to swoon at such manly manhood. And those are just what immediately come to mind.  Given time for a little thought, it just gets worse. Newt telling his wife he’s leaving her as she emerges from cancer surgery. Mark Foley sending suggestive e-mails to male congressional pages while sitting on the committee supposedly protecting them from such sleaziness. 

Our national cesspool is definitely centered in our capital where congressmen seem to feel they live by rules that put them above and beyond common decency. And yes, I deliberately use the word congressmen since congresswomen do not seem to be caught up with the sleaze factor… yet.

When Barack Obama was first elected, some of us felt there just might be a chance to sweep away some of that sleaze factor. Maybe it was wrong of us to expect him to be above the fray just because he was our first African-American president. Maybe it was wrong of us to want him to be some sort of superman who would get things done without getting dirty. 

I’m not sure at this point what bothers me more – the current scandals or the president’s seeming detachment from them. It’s like the first debate in the last presidential election when he basically phoned it in and seemed to have trouble rousing himself to even do that. I watch him now and wonder just how disengaged you can be and still function.

I can believe that he perhaps didn’t know what the IRS was doing. I can almost believe he didn’t know about the phone records. I don’t at all believe he was unaware of the truth about Benghazi. A real man would have stood up and said that, as Harry Truman put it so well, the buck stops here. Whatever happens on my watch, even if done by subordinates without my knowledge, is my responsibility because I picked those subordinates. They are my people. This is my administration. Seriously, does he never watch NCIS? The basic tenet of the whole Gibb’s persona is that he is ultimately responsible for his team and their actions because that’s what a real man does.

So this man that so many of us placed such perhaps unrealistic hope in has proven to be not just human, but as flawed a human as so many who came before him. Our disappointment is perhaps the greater because our hopes had been raised so high.

Is he still a good president? Sure, just as good as Bush or Clinton or any number of others scandal ridden presidents before him. Even Nixon had his good moments before being enveloped in the bad moment that destroyed his presidency. And Obama has done things that will reverberate well into the future such as ending sex discrimination in the military or finally passing some version of universal health care for everyone. He broke barriers in being elected that many thought would not be broken for generations yet to come. He had the guts to give the order to take out America’s number one most wanted man despite knowing the risk that, in fact, the intel might be wrong and Osama might not be there. He did all this and yet he still disappoints.

Maybe Americans just need to accept that being a politician means being dirty because in today’s America, you can’t get elected nationally without support from shadowy and questionable organizations. Or maybe the old axiom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is simply a reality that will never change.

No matter. It seems that in today’s world, no politician can remain a hero for long. We are the poorer for it.