Watching the incredible footage of Laura Ling and Euna Lee arriving home today
after Bill Clinton's more successful than any of us could have imagined mission, I realized that while this must be the kind of heady moment for Clinton that has no doubt been in short supply lately, it was an example of how someone's unresolved emotional baggage from childhood can be somehow channelled into good works.
It's no secret to anyone anymore that Bill Clinton is a need machine who seems to only thrive when he's the center of attention. That his neediness is combined with a nearly unmatched personal charisma is what enabled him to become President of the United States instead of some kind of pathetic stalker. But it's that very neediness of attention that led him to nearly squander his entire presidency on a rather tawdry extramarital dalliance.
Predictably, Rush Limbaugh and the comedians of late-night TV have been making the obvious young women-in-prison jokes and speculation about Clinton's motives, but it's hard to watch Clinton's man-hug of Al Gore and not see that in the North Korea mission there was far more mea culpa
than hubba hubba
The disaster that is the presidency of George W. Bush is forever scarred by Bush the Younger's issues with his own father. From well before he was even elected, George W. Bush had planned to find some excuse to go into Iraq and succeed where his father had failed. It was never quite clear whether what Bush wanted was his father's approval, or if his rage at the man after whom he was named was so great that he wanted to outdo his father in every way. What is indisputable, however, is that George W. Bush's father issues, from his Iraq policy to his choice of Vice President, may very well have ruined this country beyond repair.
And now we get to Barack Obama, the current president for whom many voted with a high degree of hope that he was going to be our Great Progressive Messiah, when HIS reality behind the mask was of a man who had spent his life navigating en pointe
between the world of his white mother and grandparents, and the world in which his skin color and hair texture and facial features made him unmistakably black.
During the campaign, this was said about him
in an AP article:
But it is here in Chicago that Obama learned to put together coalitions, understand the value of compromise and the need to bridge gaps — all things he says will work in the White House.
It was here that Barack Obama, activist, became Barack Obama, politician.
He did it by relying on his experience as an outsider, always finding ways to meld with worlds that were not his own.
"He was a stranger but he made his way," says Mike Kruglik, who worked with Obama as an organizer. "He could see himself in other people."
Though he had a diverse group of friends, he and two others among Punahou's few black students met weekly for what became known as "ethnic corner."
"It was more about learning from one another, other than it's the only place we feel safe," says Tony Peterson, one of the three. They discussed interracial dating, education — and, he says, probably "whether we would see a black president in our lifetime."
Peterson and other buddies say Obama never spoke of the turmoil he revealed in his memoir, "Dreams from My Father," in which he wrote about wrestling with his racial identity and using drugs — including marijuana and cocaine — to "push questions of who I was out of my mind."
This is not a man who ever wanted to have to choose between those with whom he clearly identified and those who had raised him and loved him. As another man with innate leadership skills and nearly unsurpassed personal charisma, he has made his career using that to help him more successfully navigate what seem to be vastly divergent worlds.
And then he encountered Washington Republicans.
It is so beyond Barack Obama's nature, like it is beyond Bill Clinton's calculus, to conceive of a world in which his skills can't bring Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe and Mike Ross to the table to hammer out a health care reform package that really is about reform. He has been so successful at navigating two very different worlds that he simply cannot fathom being unable to navigate Washington Democrats and the Washington Blue Dog/Republican axis. But because the navigation has become as important to him as the goal, he seems alarmingly willing to not just compromise with, but capitulate to, a bunch of people who would happily see him assassinated or disgraced -- anything but see him actually succeed.
Keith Olbermann discussed Obama's continued insistance on "bipartisanship" on health care reform when the Republicans clearly aren't interested with Chris Hayes this evening:
Three presidents, prisoners of their childhood traumas. Why can't they just get some good behavioral/cognitive therapy like the rest of us?
Labels: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush