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The Impossible Presidency

11/04/08 7:55AM By Frank Bryan
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Over the last couple of years I have been giving a talk around Vermont and New England entitled "The Impossible Presidency." It deals with two questions: First: Have we elected a "great President" in the last quarter of the life of the Republic? (The consensus of dozens of scholars is probably not.) But today I want to consider the second question. Will we elect a great president this year?

The answer is, AGAIN, probably not. Why?

At a time in our lives when the role of the Federal Government has expanded light years beyond the intention of the founders, at a time when the President has become the focal point of the inevitable failures and disappoints not only in the life of the nation but in our person everyday lives as well, at a time when any serious miscalculation in foreign affairs has global consequences and at a time when a serious economic downturn looms - we will elect one of the oldest or one of the least experienced and least tested presidents in our history. 

Either one of them will need our help.

What can we do to level the historical playing filed and give whoever wins the election a fighting chance? We can pay attention to Joe Biden's "truthful gaff" when he begged supporters to stand with Obama and support him when, if elected, he makes the unpopular decisions that all Presidents are forced to make. In short he was saying: It's a complicated world and a difficult job and we'll need your understanding.

To me that was the single most poignant and revealing moment of the entire campaign. Ironically, Biden was begging for the empathy that we have withheld from Bush.  

No matter who wins this election it is critical that we hear the anguish in Biden's plea. It is time to act like adults again and cut the new President some slack, whether it's Obama or McCain. We used to give new Presidents a grace period of 100 days to get their feet set. Why not double that?

And even in the longer term, when criticism is needed why not refuse to indulge ourselves with adolescent, hyperbolic, partisan rhetoric. Individually and one at a time in may seem harmless. 

But collectively it can destroy a nation - especially one that calls itself a democracy.

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