Inauguration thoughts

Today’s not a very interesting news day. There’s very little to glean anywhere other than the inauguration of President Obama. It’s an historic event, that an African-American has reached the highest office in the free world.

And it is, there’s no question about that. But I can’t help feeling that the intense focus on the fact that the president black is missing the far more important fact that he’s well-educated, thoughtful and capable. We don’t need a president of a particular color, we need a president who is insightful enough to understand problems, confident enough to solicit contrary opinions, and strong enough to implement solutions. From all accounts, Obama is all of these.

What concerns me about the issue of race in this inauguration is that it is obscuring the fact that he was elected on his merits. If his election comes to be seen as the last word in affirmative action, rather than a mandate to the government to stop hiding from problems, then the Obama adminstration will lose much of its authority.

Maybe a lot of people voted for Obama because he’s black. (And maybe even more voted against him for the same reason – that would be my guess.) But he was elected because he demonstrated himself to be able to comprehend, and tough enough to act.

The election itself depressed me, because it demonstrated again how unpopular intelligence is in politics.  Obama was attacked because he’s a good speaker and able to reason through difficult questions without needing a teleprompter. He was portrayed as an intellectual elitist (the first always implying the second) and not a man of the people.  He refused to play the bumpkin, and was attacked for it, but the people, amazingly, decided that this time we should choose a smart guy over a plumber. Though it took an economic collapse to demonstrate just how much we need the smart guy.

I don’t want to see that derailed. I don’t want Obama’s victory over prejudice to be solely over racial prejudice. I want it to be seen to be over anti-intellectual prejudice, and I want the executive to be seen to be as capable as it certainly is.

When I see the words “President Obama” or even “First Lady Michele Obama” I feel a thrill of excitement – of a possibility of great things ahead. But I’m not excited – well, maybe a little – because we have a black president. I’m excited because we have a president who will be able to apply real intelligence rather than hide behind hubris

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