As the Alfred Lord Tennyson poem goes, "In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." Well, it's almost five months since Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, the trees and flowers are blooming, and this young man is indeed smitten (in that utterly heterosexual way). Yes, after eight miserable, depressing, regressive, oppressive years under President George W. Bush, and as the 1955 William Holden hit film gushed, "Love is a Many Splendored Thing."
Full disclosure, I am a recent convert. I am not an Obamaton, nor am I an original member of the Obama Nation, whose members the right wing attack machine vilify as a bunch of kool-aid drunken hero-worshippers who blindly follow their "Messiah." I was a Hillary Clinton supporter. Readers of this blog know that I actually had several major reservations about the relatively young unknown politician who sought the most powerful job in the world.
I worried if the great orator with the big, electrifying stadium speeches could actually connect with the little guy in a small coffee shop in Tulsa given his cool, aloof demeanor. I worried that he was too cerebral and not enough of a fighter, and feared that he could not beat the dirty-playing GOP the way I believed the Clintons would. I worried that America, which had come so far since the civil rights movement began, might not be ready yet for a black president. I worried that the "Hope and Change" candidate didn't have the chops to make it to the finish line. But I was wrong. Since he took office, I get it. I understand now what I didn't then. That this man is a transcendent leader. Someone who comes around like the political equivalent of Haley's Comet.
Unlike his predecessor, who inherited a strong economy and a nation at peace, Obama stepped into the fire with two wars, the fight against terrorism and the worst economy since The Great Depression, in which he's had the banking, housing and auto industry crises dumped in his lap. To his credit, he's implemented policies which have unlocked the credit markets, stabilized Wall Street and resulted in a huge upswing in consumer confidence.
We've also seen Obama tackle tough wedge issues--race, abortion, U.S./Muslim relations--head on with brilliance, passion, sincerity and unparalleled oratory skills. Issues that most other politicians either avoided or exploited. No one before him has simply rolled up his sleeves and said, "Hold on a second, people. What are we fighting over? This is crazy. Why can't we address these issues, our differences, like mature adults striving for a common ground, and do so with mutual respect, humility and tolerance?" The right can mock it as a typical liberal "Kumbayah" moment all they want, but isn't this how real change begins? By opening up a dialogue and bridging social gaps?
How refreshing to have a president who's wickedly smart. Whose intelligence, curiosity and diplomacy--not narrow mindedness, arrogance and disengagement--drives his thought process and decision-making. A leader who thinks before he speaks. Who absorbs information. Obsesses over details. Understands the facts. A president who keeps his emotions in check and exercises incredible judgement and self-control. Someone at the controls who's not impulsive, petulant, smug, cocky. It's nice to have a fucking grown-up in the White House for a change.
To be sure, in the first five months of his nascent presidency, Obama has shown incredible tenacity, resolve, vision and statesmanship. He's truly the right guy for these troubled times, and I suspect the history books will judge him accordingly many years from now. Let's just say he's won me over.
On another note, we could use your help at The The Adrienne Shelly Foundation. We're a 501 c 3 tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated in my late wife's honor, and with a simple mission: supporting women filmmakers. Adrienne, who wrote, directed and starred in the hit film WAITRESS, was killed November 1, 2006. Through the Foundation, her commitment to filmmaking lives on. We've established scholarships, grants, finishing funds, screenwriting fellowships and living stipends at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts/Kanbar Institute of Film; Columbia University; American Film Institute; Women in Film; IFP; the Nantucket Film Festival; the Tribeca Film Institute; and the Sundance Institute. Your generous contribution will go a long way towards helping us achieve this very important mission. Please click here to make a donation. Thank you.