I’m an old baseball junky. Played it incessantly as a kid, all of the way from Little League to high school. Two guys I grew up with made the majors, and I was offered a low minors contract. But this was back when the minors had AAA, AA, A, and B-D classifications, meaning they needed lots of fresh meat. I knew I wasn’t good enough, and, besides, in hindsight, neither of the guys I knew made more than about $15K a year (this was back before the explosion in salaries). Anyway, I always make time for the World Series and for the baseball all star game, which is, IMO, the purest of them all because the players actually try. The other sports’ all star games are merely exhibitions.
So tonight I’m watching the All Star Game. But it was kind of ruined for me during the pre game show when the two drivelers of Fox Sports, Joe Buck and his sidekick, the inept Tim McCarver, hosted something called “People Who Make a Difference.” As an aside, one of the things that always irks me is that the two mediocrities—Buck and McCarver—make more than a million dollars a year apiece. For doing a poor job of broadcasting sports. On the field were 30 great people, people who’ve gone out of their way to actually help others, and who don't come anywere near a million a year, making a difference; they deserve all of the credit in the world.
But here’s what really got to me. They did a little cute thing where five of the 30 “Difference Makers” were showcased in videos narrated by the current president and the four living former presidents. With the exception of Jimmy Carter, for whom I have the utmost respect, all I could think of while listening to these “great men” drone on in extolling the virtues of volunteer work, was “humma-humma-woof-woof,” an expression I picked up in from the many cynics with whom I served in the military whenever a “great man” made some sort of pronouncement about how "we're all in this together." Substitute “motherhood and apple pie” if you don’t like my expression.
As I was watching the extravaganza, I was wondering just why I got a bad taste in my mouth watching these presidents hold forth on the virtues of these individual Americans and how we (you and me) can really make a difference in our nation. And then it struck me: these guys can sure talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Are "we all in it together" with these men? Can I actually identify with them?
The current occupant, Barack Obama, was elected—and let’s be honest here—with votes from middle and lower class folks who believed his speeches about “making a difference” and who believed that would translate into a difference for them personally. Yeah, I voted for him, but to be honest, inasmuch as I’d already bailed from the stock market, a McCain victory wouldn’t have affected me too much personally. So what have we seen from Mr. Obama? I see lots of stuff about how Goldman Sachs and other bankers are already back making money. I see where Bank of America won’t give a home loan, but is sure interested in raising the salaries of its executive. All of this after the American people ponied up the money to rescue these ungrateful bankers. It seems Mr. Obama never met a banker he wouldn’t save, but isn’t overly concerned about continually rising unemployment, most of it among those who voted for him. Oh, and then there are the wars and the defense of the unlawful actions of the Bush Administration. Mr. Obama now believes in the national security state. He also believes in nation building and in commitment of U.S. troops in godforsaken foreign lands into the far future, for objectives that are difficult to discern. It doesn’t escape my notice that most of those who actually fight and die in the wars are not exactly what one would term “upper class.” Obama’s friends won’t die in any wars, they’ll just keep making money. I don't need your lectures, Mr. Obama. Just do what you said you would do.
Then there is George W. Bush. I laugh when this contemptible man has the effrontery to lecture me on “making a difference.” Fortunately, I think (hope) we’re resilient enough to rebound from this man’s offenses, but it’s going to be a close call. He enriched the already rich and he put the nation in severe peril through his tax cutting and his stupid wars. He deserves the "worst president" label. Yeah, he sure made a difference.
Although Bill Clinton has done much good since he left office, we still need to look at how he actually performed as president. Yes, the economy grew and the stock market went up, but hidden in there were the loss of American jobs and, notably, the relaxation of sound banking regulations. The latter turned into a time bomb and it’s noteworthy that many folks who sold Clinton on the beneficial aspects of the relaxation now occupy leading positions in Obama’s administration. What else? Oh, yeah, the best chance ever for a national health plan. Bill Clinton submarined the opportunity by putting his wife and other ideologues in charge. One wonders if this was a quid pro quo for his history of personal weaknesses. And Clinton didn’t reform: he actually ensured the election of George Bush as his successor through his inability to keep his pants zipped. I don’t want Clinton lecturing me either.
The patrician “Poppie,” George H.W. Bush, who wants to be everybody’s grandfather. Not mine, thank you. Doesn’t seem to have done much of a job with his own kids; why would I want him near mine? Never met an oil man or banker he didn’t love. Loved what his wife said about Hurricane Katrina refugees. I voted for Ross Perot, in hopes that he was launching a viable alternative to our current corrupt party system. Unfortunately, Perot turned out to be wacko with no staying power, but even in 1992, I knew the truth. No lectures from Poppy, thank you.
Jimmy Carter, a truly admirable man, way over his head as president. I wish he’d never been president—he gave us Reagan—but I’m glad he was born. He tried, but he failed, so he did us no favors. I'll listen to this man.
So there you have it. Five presidents, only one whom—Carter—has actually tried to walk the walk. The rest of ‘em are great talkers, but that’s all they are. Check their bank accounts.
Unlike most of us, presidents, by definition always make a difference. So why is it that the difference presidents have made during our lifetimes has unfailingly been negative? They kill us, they bankrupt us, they put us out of work, sometimes a combination of all. Why do the American people end up the big losers in the game these monied people play to be anointed president? With the exception of Carter, every one of these presidents is a believer in "trickle down economics," the theory that enriching the rich will redound to the benefit of the lower classes. Yes, the theory has worked temporarily, sometimes through true economic growth (rare), but more often through extensive borrowing. They're all Reaganites! Given economics and wars, our nation is in a disgraceful state, thanks to the cumulative effects of the efforts of these presidents and their political henchmen. Congress? Sure, but the president has the power of suasion and the veto. I don't identify with these dudes. No way, no how.
Final score: American League 4, National League 3. Damn it!