In less than two months, George W. Bush will leave the White House and officially turn the reins of government over to Barack Obama. At that time, President-elect Obama will become President Obama, and Bush will return to his Texas ranch as a private citizen.
However, if you have been paying any attention at all in the weeks since Obama became the first African American elected president, you may have noticed something: Obama appears to be more of a president than the president.
Obama’s Cabinet appointments are taking shape much more quickly than in previous administrations. He has aggressively taken on the economic crisis in this country by describing — in detail — his plans to stimulate the economy and create a whopping 2.5 million jobs. He has addressed the media at least four times in the past two weeks.
He has, for all intents and purposes, been acting like the president of the United States. This while continuing to remind Americans that “there is only one president at a time.” So why is he apparently hip-checking Bush out of the way a few months early?
Because he has to.
If there is one word to describe the George W. Bush presidency, it is this: failed. It has been said many times, but it bears repeating. No other administration, with the possible exception of that of James Buchanan (who literally did nothing while the country split in two and marched toward civil war), has been as mind-numbingly inept as the one we have had for the past eight years.
And now, in the face of the current crisis, with millions of Americans losing their jobs and their homes, the ineptitude of the “W” era continues. The president has sauntered along while his Treasury secretary desperately throws money at financial institutions which have given amazingly exorbitant amounts of money to their executives. At the same time, Bush (behind Paulson’s lead, of course) has refused to give help to the failing auto industry, which provides millions more jobs to Americans than the banks and insurance companies that have benefited from the government’s bailout so far.
Meanwhile, President-elect Obama, who initially pledged to stand aside until he was officially sworn in, has realized (and rightfully so) that it is his duty to step in now — before the Bush administration can boggle things up even worse. Obama has basically thrown caution and tradition to the wind in an effort to save the economy, even before he is president. And it is a good thing, too, because the man currently in the White House obviously can’t handle the responsibility.
To his credit, Bush seems to be all too happy to step back and let Obama take over. That could be because he does not want to be held responsible any more than he already is. But perhaps it is because he realizes just how egregiously atrocious his leadership has become.
He has to know that he has failed. His approval ratings are lower than Richard Nixon’s were when he was forced to resign. Our military is stretched between two wars, one of which was totally unnecessary, while the other should have been finished years ago. The economy has crumbled due to a complete lack of regulation, which was exactly the course that Bush charted. He has accomplished nothing that he promised during his 2000 campaign, other than his massive and ill-conceived tax cuts which have contributed to the problem we now face.
Maybe Bush is saying, in his Southern drawl, “You know what, I know I’m not the man for this job. I tried, but I just can’t handle it.” Maybe that’s why he is only half-heartedly trying to ease the problems our country faces, while his successor is already attacking them head-on. Maybe that’s why he has committed so much time and so many resources to ensuring that the transition goes smoothly and quickly.
Maybe, just maybe, Bush has decided (along with the rest of us) that the Obama administration is far better for this country than his own. If that is the case, it would be the best decision of his presidency.
Craig Withers is a freelance writer in Michigan.