Requiem for the Past Eight Years and a Prayer of Hope for the Next Eight

An economic rebound will be spurred by a grass-roots spirit of can-do and hope in the future personified by the Obama campaign.
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Today Americans will go to the polls in record numbers and elect Barack Obama as their President. If polls and indications are correct, this could be as powerful a public mandate as Lyndon B. Johnson received when he swept to victory against conservative standard-bearer Barry Goldwater in 1964. A few days before the 2004 Presidential election, I wrote:
"I believe we are one nation and that we are a nation under God. Yes, I'm concerned about an erosion of morality and ethics in America. Yes, I'm a strong advocate for anti-terrorism policies and for improved protection of our borders. But I am most concerned that my freedoms under God and under the Bill of Rights are being eroded and will inevitably continue to be eroded under the Bush administration. I'm surprised to find myself in the minority."

Today I am pleased to find myself in the majority, although it is difficult to assess how much support for Barack Obama is genuine and how much is a backlash against the policies of George Bush. It's all too clear that many of the policies of this now lame-duck administration have been disastrous economically, sociologically, globally and politically.

On Election Day 2004, I wrote:

"President Bush is a prideful and honorable man of faith, and he has been impressive in his ability to lead us into war. But I believe he has failed in his leadership of this nation in so many other ways, including his failure to demand accountability from advisors who have misled the nation.

· He has failed to establish himself as a respected world leader, instead subjecting all Americans who travel abroad to growing anti-American anger.

· He has led the nation's economy from a massive surplus to a deficit economists could not have imagined in their most negative forecasts.

· He has subjected the first amendment to restrictions that go well beyond those threatened during the Nixon/Agnew administration.

· His skills as an oilman have resulted in a near doubling of prices at the gas pump.

· The economy is being held together by a noose and the floor is about to be pulled out from under."

In the past four years, my arguments against another four years of George Bush have taken on increased credibility and urgency. Regretfully, President Bush continued down the path that he so clearly set-out in his first term. On Election Day four years ago, comparing the Iraqi War to Vietnam, I asked:

"Are we headed toward another defeat with far more devastating damage to our nation and our military forces [than Vietnam]? Bush and Kerry debate who will best protect us from terrorism. I ask who will put us at greater risk of defeat? The path we are on today is distressingly reminiscent of the path that led us deeper and deeper into Vietnam. Just as it did in the 1960s, instincts say we should pursue and destroy terrorism without hesitation. But I remember Vietnam and the dangers of moving deeper into the jungle without a winning strategy. With Election Day imminent, our military is poised to attack al-Qaeda stronghold Fallujah, Will we ultimately destroy anti-American forces in Iraq and free our troops to return home? Or will a surprise aggression against American forces, similar to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, move us from the offensive to the defensive?"

In this presidential election of 2008, the economy and the war have been overriding issues, effectively diminishing debate about Constitutional Rights and the Supreme Court, women's right of choice, the role of religion in government, media concentration, Net Neutrality, the environment and energy policy, medical research, health care, national infrastructure and so many other core policy differences between liberal and conservative politics that have dominated political debate since the Johnson/Goldwater campaign.

In the Obama presidency, we can expect many of these issues to take on increasing visibility and we can also expect the conservative right, possibly led by a resurgent Sarah Palin, to become stridently vocal in opposition. Although issues that are critical for the future of America and the world have been relegated to a back seat during the campaign because of the economy, they cannot remain in the back seat as the government struggles to rebuild the nation economically. The economy will revitalize itself not because of rescue plans and government intervention. An economic rebound will result when Americans feel positive again about their homes, their families' futures, their Constitutional rights, their role in the community and their nation's role in the world.

An economic rebound will be spurred not by a government-led flow of money into the economy and corporate bail-outs. It will be powered by a grass-roots spirit of can-do and hope in the future personified by the Obama campaign. I pray when we look back four years from today that President Obama's first term positively fulfills its promise and the hope we have that our nation's pride, economy and commitment to human rights will be justified. Unfortunately, the Bush presidency has fulfilled its promises all too well.

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