It was either a sign of the genius of the American republic or a paean to political amnesia. Probably a heap of both were necessary for George W. Bush and Barack Obama to meet at the White House to symbolize the transition of government.
Obama had just won a prolonged campaign in which he’d railed against “eight years of failed policies of George Bush.” Bush’s Republican Party had labeled Obama a socialist.
This, in a season in which the federal government has committed generations of taxpayers to bailouts of monster mortgage and insurance companies, when Democrats in Congress were defending their policies with regard to those industries, and when Obama was advocating an immediate government rescue for the staggering auto industry.
By all accounts, Bush-Obama was a cordial meeting. There are three reasons for this civility.
First, after the longest election in American history, most Americans – except for a few ideologues in the blogosphere’s karaoke choruses – are looking for respite from partisanship. Obama and Bush symbolized just that; it was an important moment for the psyche of Americans, even if it is unlikely to survive the winter in Washington.
Second, if we have learned anything about George W. Bush, it is that he will not allow a repeat of the churlish turnover – remember the allegations of mangled computers and the like – that took place from Clinton to Bush after the 2000 election.
Clintonites said reports of mischief were overblown, but Bush has too much respect for the office for any hint of repeat performance.
Third, and probably most importantly, one could safely assume that since the election, Obama has been given the full measure of the threat assessments he will now get for at least the next four years and that such an exercise has given him a new respect for what Bush has gone through for the last eight.
In the latter sense, Bush and Obama are a fraternity of two. They not only see what those that Bush has labeled the “evildoers” would like to do to America, they are primarily responsible for stopping it.
And on this front, Bush has not failed on his watch. On Sept. 12, 2001, you could not have found many Americans who would have predicted there would be no follow-up attacks on domestic soil for seven years, and counting.
There are big problems to solve. The politics are too personal. The discourse is too coarse. But the fundamentals of the republic are still strong. Power is about to change hands without threat of bayonet.
Americans stood in line to vote without fear of suicide bombers exploding in their midst. They chose a black man after many said they could not. The story goes on.
Raasch’s blog: Get more behind-the-scenes reports, context and analysis about politicians and the political process in Raasch’s Furthermore blog. Look for it at http://gns.gannettonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=BLOGS03.
Chuck Raasch is political editor for Gannett News Service. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.