Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dissing The President, Vol I and Vol II

It is not true that President and Mrs. Obama called out, "Don't let the helicopter door hit you in the ass on the way out!" to President and Mrs. Bush as they left the Capitol on Marine One [above] after Tuesday's inauguration.

For all the pageantry of Tuesday's inauguration of President Obama, there were still a few examples of good, old fashion pissing contests on display for the world to see. One was behind the scenes, but one was out in the open, delivered in such moderation of tone that it took hours for anyone to even notice it had occurred.

First, the behind the scenes incident. We all have people we have to deal with from time to time for whom we wouldn't piss down their throats if their hearts were on fire. Such is the relationship between former Presidents Clinton and Carter. Don't believe me? Check out this exchange at the Capitol on Tuesday as the former living Presidents were lined up to make their entrance onto the platform. My favorite part is the millisecond where Carter and Clinton are face-to-face with nowhere to look, but at each other. Carter simply breezes right on by. Classic.

For his part, Carter denies that there was any snub. He told ABC News that he had just spent "thirty minutes" talking with Clinton prior to the incident and simply wanted to make sure he said hello to President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, before heading out onto the platform. Watch the video again and you decide. Looks to me like Clinton and Carter would sooner eat their own feet than say hello to one another.

And this isn't the first time - just this month - that Carter has raised eyebrows with his reaction to Clinton. Back on January 7th, when all the living presidents gathered in the Oval Office for a luncheon with then-President-elect Obama, reporters noted that Carter refused to stand next to Clinton, continuously moving inches away from him throughout the photo opportunity. It became so awkward that, at the end, Clinton clumsily tried to make conversation with the president on his right - George W. Bush - with the asinine comment, "I love this rug."

But the Carter-Clinton rumble was a mere sideshow. Out in the open, with the subject of his criticism sitting no more than ten feet away from him, President Obama delivered a subtle lambasting of his immediate predecessor - George W. Bush - in his inaugural address. Indeed, it marked the first time since the chilly [and I'm not talking about the weather] ceremony in 1933, where newly sworn-in President Franklin Roosevelt performed a vivisection on the departing President Herbert Hoover while the latter sat and visibly stewed on the platform.

FDR's criticisms were direct, but Obama's were no less pointed even though delivered with a velvet glove. There were the obvious barbs - for example, Obama's promise, "We will restore science to its rightful place", and, in speaking of the economic crisis, "this crisis reminds us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control" - but there were other arrows within the address, all aimed at Bush. For instance, when Obama urged Americans to “choose our better history,” to reject a “false choice” between safety and American ideals and to recognize that American military power does not “entitle us to do as we please,” he was clearly rebuking some of the basic tenets of Bush's tenure.

As Obama recited the litany of things that have gone wrong on Bush's watch, you have to believe that Bush was in a state of shock - after all, he has not been in the habit of being forced to sit and listen while he is taken to task for the negatives of his presidency. In fact, what initially looked like a warm sign of affection - Bush's hugging Obama after the latter finished his address - may now be seen in a different light: perhaps Bush told Obama to, "go fuck yourself". Although that seems more in Dick Cheney's style of vulgarity than Bush's. Since Cheney was confined to a wheelchair [the rumor that he broke his ankle while kicking a puppy could not be corroborated], maybe Bush was delivering Cheney's message for him.

Can't wait for the next presidential reunion.

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