Obama, our non-socialist, non-Muslim, average president.

Quick, name a president who's mother wasn't a white Christian. You can't. There hasn't been one. In fact, there's never been a president who wasn't a Christian. There's one who has been accused of such nonsense as being a "secret muslim". I think you know who I am talking about. Number 44, the skinny fellow who is a great orator and, frankly, a pretty average president.

Unfortunately, our country is all about extremes. Extremists are the ones with the loudest political opinions. No one cares about you unless you are the "most" or "worst" (amazingly life isn't that black and white). Extremists also like to manipulate facts to "somewhat truthiness"rather than actual facts, case in point the fact that President Obama instituted and supported the bank bail out - a check of the date this occurred makes this at least partially impossible (Bush was still in the Oval Office) - yet many (far too many) Americans have bought the line that this bailout was Obama's plan because they've been told it enough that it's become fact. A lot of these are the same Americans who were against that bailout and the auto-bailout where taxpayer money was used and spent here but didn't make a peep as we funded wars against random middle eastern nations. So many myths I've seen out there (more soldiers died with Obama in office than Bush, Obama hired more government workers than Bush (hello, Homeland Security), Obama called himself God in a speech (or, just maybe, he read a psalm...) are just complete false propaganda. But the left, too, is guilty. Their problem is they try to portray Obama as some sort of liberal hero, despite the fact the wars in the Middle East continue, the economy is still a trickle-down economy (during his presidency the rich get richer and the poor don't). And don't get me started on the falsities of the anti-Obamacare folks, or the real problems of Obamacare, or my biggest fault with Obama (which others, if viewing rationally, would view a strength.

So what kind of president is Barack Obama? How does he rate?

  • He inherited a mess. He inherited a government that people didn't trust for the past 10 years (wait, Bush was there only 8 years, right?) While Bush certainly deserves his share of the blame, lets not forget "There are weapons of mass destruction" wasn't the only lie the American people were told. And as foolish as the Clinton Impeachment hearings were, they hurt our government. Clinton lied (no one died, I know) but it started a chain of events that lead to the mess we are in today (just as much the fault of congress too). But enough on Clinton, let's get to Bush. Bush was a wreck. The best thing Bush did in his presidency was transition power to Obama (it really was a great transition and he does deserve credit) but the wars, the increased spending and debt (yeah, that happened then too, but it wasn't being spent here in America), ridiculous tax code during war (Obama hasn't undone this though), no standardized test child left behind. Coupled with mumbles and stumbles, mission accomplished, complete control of the government yet not working with the democrats on anything, the fact he probably didn't deserve to be the nominee in the first place nor did he actually win the popular vote (there's some fishiness in Florida in there too). What can you say? At least he didn't shoot anyone in the face, he just allowed a face shooter's former company to profit from a war with no-bid contracts at the expense of things like body armor for army reservists. And somehow he gets a pass on 9/11, despite the fact he was about 9 months into his presidency. There's been bad presidents (James Buchanan makes Bush look like a hero) but in modern times, there's not been a disaster like this guy. And democrats were mad. There were fighting words (a lot of stuff like "sheeple" and "kool aid" and "divisive" has been recycled the right to describe Obama, even though it doesn't really fit).
  • So he inherited this? What did he do differently? Not that much. Same budget (stimulus may or may not have helped, no one can prove it hurt - at least prove it well). Same taxes (but now corporation are people). Lesser wars, but still wars. The promise of reigning in Wall Street sort of faded. Government not that transparent, still spying on people . You see, these would be great talking points for the right - the problem is a lot of his policy is just republican play book material. So for them to criticize him for it is difficult (at least with people who think somewhat logically). However, the reality is, since congress switch back to the GOP, discretionary spending is down, the government is actually smaller and the stockmarket is not in the tank anymore. So some of us are better off, some of us the same, some of us aren't getting raises.
  • I've spoke too much in other forums on Obamacare. I'll be brief. I feel reform is better than the status quo but without a single payer, it's going to be painful for awhile. In fact, it brings up a point. Regardless of the talking points, Obama has been willing to work with republicans and republicans didn't want single payer. Despite full control, it was stripped out. This is good (that he could negotiate) but bad (because he basically negotiated with loonies driving around from town to town for these townhall meetings talking about death panels and other nonsense). I think eventually this will be fixed - if insurance companies can't provide the coverage at the right price for those being forced to buy, the government will get involved. Probably not while Obama is in office. But once the government starts negotiating prices, you'll see a change in the way healthcare is run and it will be more efficient.
  • Remember Obama's tour of the Middle East (the right-wing dubbed "apology tour")? Notice how much things have changed in those countries? In a lot of ways, Obama's foreign policy has been successful (now if he could just get the troops home). America's view by the world changed for the better just by Bush leaving, but since then we've seen global changes and frankly, more civil war, less external war.

    So what did Obama accomplish? I personally like this link http://whattheheckhasobamadonesofar.com/ but I'll also add he has brought some respect back to our country internationally, he has turned our attention inward, rather than outward and imperialistic. When we were attacked by terrorists under his presidency at the Boston Marathon, justice was quick, terrorists were caught. But when the shooting in Newtown occurred, Obama caved to the NRA's propaganda (Reagan didn't... take that "liberals") just like he caved on single payer.. or did he compromise.

    History is probably going to view Obama as a pretty average president, part of a string of presidents from Reagan who let the stockmarket and trickle down economics control our economy, a president who presided over a lot of debt, added to it (no more than others except Clinton) and didn't do much to stop it. He'll be viewed as a pioneer because of his race and his passion and his outstanding speaking. His foreign policy will be viewed as strong (because not much happened - and if he can withdraw troops, he'll be viewed even more favorably). Like Bill Clinton, he'll probably resurface and contribute tremendously to the democrats for years to come. He's helped gays. He started healthcare reform. He had to battle with a republican party that was lead by an anti-government group (just a juxtaposition in that summation!) He won't be Buchanan or other bad presidents (re: Bush, yes he will be viewed as a bad president) nor will he be viewed as Clinton or Reagan, Kennedy or FDR. He'll just be viewed as one of the presidents of the early 21st century.Sorry if you were expecting something more. 


Remembering George King

Last month my grandfather George King passed away at 91 years old. After a stroke and a series of "mini-strokes" he died in his sleep on Tuesday morning. He'd hoped to make it out of the rehabilitation center but had only made it home for a few visits, having gone home for the afternoon the previous Sunday.

I was asked to speak about him at the memorial service and this is what I had to say:

On behalf of George's grandchildren Jessica, Jeff, Emily, Jen, Meredith, Jon, Ryan, Sam and Jake, I'd like to thank you for coming today. I think all of us grandchildren have our own memories of George, whether it was a hike in the backyard or a talk at a family function. Even though he was quiet, he always looked back at us as if he was taking everything in and would recall it all later on in the day. He said few words but made them count.

For me, grandpa always wanted to talk about baseball. The last time I saw him one of the first things he asked me was how I thought the Red Sox were doing this year. He said none of the people at the facility liked baseball and he needed someone to talk about it. As a little kid, he'd ask me if I was a Yankee fan "still"… I think he gave up that question when I was a teenager… but he still knew I appreciated the game. He'd talk about players, current and past, and what he thought of them. You had a prod him a bit to talk about his athletic career. Every now and then, something would turn up at the house as a reminder… the press-clipping from his All-American football recognition… his minor league baseball statistics… hitting .250 as a pitcher… or a box score of a high-school no-hitter. If you kept him talking, he'd give you a better story, like the time Red Ruffing was talking to him as a coach and told him to take every advantage that he could, how Ruffing had thrown the second game of a doubleheader from about 5 feet in front of the mound and never been caught. It took me 30 years to get that story out of him and he told me with a wry smile as he said it. He also shared insightful stories about his time in Brazil during WWII and about our family history as I started to research genealogy. 

I'm sure all of us grandchildren have stories like this, from a quiet man they'd known their whole life but who was always there, although they probably don't all have to do with baseball. For us grandchildren, George has been there our whole lives, as long as we can remember. When I came to the house as we planned the memorial services, I walked into the living room and I was the only one there and Doris, my grandmother, asked me to take a seat. I saw grandpa's recliner empty and it set in that he was gone. I can't think of a time in my life that there wasn't a recliner in that same spot in the living room where grandpa would be sitting when I came in. One of his nephews told me that George was a "king among men" and to me, that made that seat was his thrown. Sometimes grandma had to tell him to get up to greet us; grandpa liked his time to himself, but he would always greet us pleasantly when we saw him.

I can imagine our next family function when we all sit at the table and the chair at the head of the table is empty and how we'll all think of those conversations we had with grandpa. We will always miss him and love him.