by Jim Cahillane
Now that the political campaigns and baseball seasons of 2008 are entering their crucial stages, it’s time to wake up and pay attention. Decisions will be made. Take a few moments to leave your summer cares behind: Your rainy vacation week. Forget that TV news anchors’ advice to drive miles away for cheaper gas, Manny’s dreadful departure from the Red Sox, along with the national housing crisis followed by bank failures. Wars, count ’em, in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Republic of Georgia that make deadly headlines, plus numerous terror attacks and suicide bombings.
It’s enough to make a grown man or woman cry.
“The saddest words of tongue or pen are these: It might have been,” opined poet John Greenleaf Whittier in his wordy look at missed opportunities and lost loves; we’ve all been there. In the past eight years America has missed every opportunity to do the right thing by voting in a competent president to inspire us, lead us, and protect us while fulfilling his oath to defend democracy’s goals at home and around the globe.
During this period the misled voters of America morphed into regretful sad sack examples of Oscar Wilde’s claim that “Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.” In 2000, abetted by the Supreme Court, we chose George W. Bush, an intellectual lightweight one-term governor of Texas, in place of Al Gore, a two-term vice president of the United States who had helped transform our whole economy from record deficits into record surpluses. Talk about voting against your own self-interest!
Gore was also ahead of the curve on the environment and wrote a book that, among other things, called for the redesign of American cars to be emission-free. He won no fans among the executives in Detroit, who blew him off as “Ozone man.” If those same executives are still employed, they’re now propping up three struggling companies with belated promises to move the needle toward clean cars of the future. In the meantime GM, Ford and Chrysler have greatly shrunk in size, lost billions of dollars, and killed off tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs.
Gore had a far better eight years than Detroit did, or America, winning both an Oscar and, oh yeah, a Nobel Prize. Who’s laughing now? We’re still waiting for Bush’s book. However, we don’t have to wait for the parade of books already out that reveal his total incompetence, not to mention undermining the Constitution time and time again. Even though he took America into a preemptive war in Iraq, on cooked-up evidence, the nation re-elected G. W. Bush in 2004. More fools we to be fooled twice. John Kerry was Swift-boated with deceitful propaganda by Karl Rove and company that convinced just enough voters to saddle America with four more Bush years.
These stark comparisons remind me of Babe Ruth’s 1930 response as to how he felt about asking for a higher salary than President Hoover. “I had a better year than he did,” Babe answered, truthfully.
Well, now we’re getting down to hardpan, which has a name: Hope! Are you better off today than you were four years ago, or eight? How about 53 years ago? In 1955 the Richard Adler and Jerry Ross Broadway musical “Damn Yankees” lifted our spirits as an optimistic America was singing its hit song, “Heart”:
You’ve gotta have heart
All you really need is heart
When the odds are saying you’ll never win
That’s when the grin should start.
You’ve gotta have hope
Mustn’t sit around and mope
Nothin’s half as bad as it may appear
Wait’ll next year and hope.
I remember the year and the song because, as a newly married veteran, with a job, I lived on hope that our future, along with America’s, would be bright. We lived in the bustling small city of Northampton, Ike was in the White House, the Korean War truce had been signed, and thousands of World War II G.I. Bill veterans were storming out of college determined to get America moving again. What could go wrong?
Over 50 fast years a lot of good and bad things happened as we wised up to the sour meaning of the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,”
Fast forward to 2008. Now come two senators: John McCain for the GOP, and the Democratic standard bearer, Barack Obama. McCain is an aging maverick approaching his 72nd birthday; Senator Obama is a sprightly 47. Looking back longingly to four years ago when I was McCain’s age, like a lot of creaking seniors I don’t fancy his chances. We coddle our presidents sure enough; “W” has been in a bubble for eight years. Limousine convoys, jet planes and Marine helicopters must reduce travel stress, yet even President Bush takes his favorite pillow with him. Senator McCain should retire on his laurels, not squander them in a win-at-all-costs campaign. When dirty tricks succeed, America loses.
Obama may not be perfect, but he’s thoughtful, very smart and dedicated to bringing back real hope to the American people. I pray that my children and grandchildren will live and prosper in an America of possible dreams, a land of opportunity for all. It’s long past time to vote the no-good bums out, work toward the common good, and begin to solve America’s challenges. JFK summed it up for us in the final words of his inaugural address: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land that we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”
Now is the time to set every citizen’s heart ablaze with hope. Yes, we can.