Tolstoy, who liked standing around in the cold as much as the next guy, still wouldn't have thought the inauguration was a very big deal. So what if we changed one president for another?
Tolstoy would remind us that the king is history's slave. An unconscious instrument in the attainment of the aims of humanity, and the higher he stands the more people he's connected with and more evident is the inevitability of his every action. Nothing is the cause. All this is only the coincidence of conditions and the so-called great men are labels giving names to events, and like labels they have but the smallest connection with the event itself.
Yes, when it comes to Obama, Leo Tolstoy would have made a terrible Huffington Post blogger.
He'd be wrong, too. We can't talk about what happened today without conceding that there's at least something to Great Man Theory. Some men are lighting without which the fuel never would have burnt. I'm not talking about Barack Obama. I don't know enough about him, and neither do you. His kids seem nice. I'm talking about George W. Bush.
Could any other single human have changed a world so much in so little time? I don't just mean imagine Al Gore or John Kerry in charge. I mean imagine another Republican. Imagine anyone. Pat Buchanan. Pat Robertson. Pat Sajak.
Okay, Pat Robertson might have been worse. Maybe.
Did George W. Bush participate, passively or actively, in one event that wasn't a monstrous disaster? Did he alter anything except to degrade it? Did he touch one object he didn't break?
Did he make one decision that wasn't disgusting? Did he utter one statement that wasn't a cacophony of vile cant? Did he hire one man who wasn't an incompetent or a criminal?
Okay, this was supposed to be about Obama and hope, and all that. One man can make a difference, maybe. But I keep thinking about how some men change everything by ruining it. And how we might be finished with George W. Bush but George W. Bush isn't finished with us.
Take today for instance, and Barack Obama trying to figure out what John Roberts was trying to say, while Roberts tried but was unable to stumble through a ceremony a Girl Scout could perform. Honestly, how hard was that?
And the inescapable realization:
George W. Bush left his country with a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who couldn't administer a 35-word oath without tripping over his own dick.