There’s tile on the Oval Office floor. Tile. Not the royal blue carpet we’ve grown accustomed to from episodes of the West Wing, but a glassy, polished opalescent tile with the seal of the president emblazoned upon it. And green striped lawn chairs. Well, at least they look like lawn chairs. How utterly disappointing. I hope Michelle Obama does something about that once she gets there. Yesterday’s Obama-Bush photo op was interesting only in the sense that everything this guy does—up to and including, literally, blowing his nose—just seems to fascinate America. With a reported 70% approval rating, Mr. Obama sat down with the president, whose approval rating remains somewhere in the 20’s. From all reports it was a congenial affair, likely with the president offering up his opinions and Obama saying, “yes, sir.” The president-elect has smartly distanced himself from the current president, reminding impatient voters daily that he is not yet president. The polices currently being pursued are those of the Bush administration, for which he wants neither credit, blame, nor responsibility.
But his posture does offer up an interesting observation: Obama Backlash is undoubtedly coming. Everybody (well, everybody who liked the guy) has some agenda, some cause, they want the new president to champion, and he has promised almost everything to everyone. The new president will be saddled with a complete mess, which might actually be fine Republican strategy—hand off the mess to the new guy then blame him for failing to fix everything in four years. But even rabid Obamaites will be disappointed in how long change actually takes. That, a year from now, America could still be in Iraq, could still be reeling in economic turmoil, would probably result in Obama Backlash when the new president proves himself to be only human. With a friendly congress (albeit divided by 535 individual agendas), we expect Obama to move quickly. But, the reality is, as big a mess as we appear to be in, I’m quite sure much worse news has been hidden under that gleaming tile or in closets around the West Wing. That bad news, no matter how bad it is, has been doctored by the politics. It remains to be seen if Barack Obama is an FDR (or even competent at the gig), but our hopes have been raised to unrealistic levels. Keeping hands off of Bush’s mess until it becomes Obama’s mess is certainly right thinking, but the new president really needs to prepare the nation to roll up its sleeves and put our collective shoulder to the wheel to fix this thing, instead of sitting back and expecting Obama to do it by himself.