In the months after 9/11 Vanity Fair featured an Annie Leibovitz cover of George Bush and his team in the Oval Office: Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Don Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet. I went out and bought the magazine and carefully cut out the cover and put it up on my wall. They looked strong, and intelligent, and capable. I felt reassured to see them, and I felt that America had some direction. Watching President Bush give his speech to Congress on September 20th gave me a certain courage and hope that was difficult to find during that time.
And yet now, of course, that sense of hope and unity is scattered to the wind. Every name I listed above is now weighed down by a litany of errors, mistakes, and examples of striking incompetence. What we are doing in Iraq is simply wasteful, of so much: the lives of our soldiers; the existing Iraqi society, which is now ripped to shreds; the good faith so many decent Iraqis placed in us; and the goodwill of the international community that buoyed us when we were at our lowest.
And yet - John McCain is out there advocating for more troops, more strength, and a longer commitment in Iraq. And the damned thing is, I think he's right: if we expect to pull any kind of success out of this debacle, we have to stick it through. But his problem, and the president's, is that our nation has lost the will for the fight, and for good reason. Once the president gets out of office, he will spend the rest of his life justifying and defending this war, and trying to come up with a narrative to vindicate his own errors. John McCain, I think, is acting honestly right now, with integrity. He's not pandering to anyone, because no one agrees with him; but he is insisting on this course, and staking his political future on it, because he thinks it's the right thing to do. And for that reason, I think what he is doing is an incredibly noble thing.
I'm a bit worked up now from reading Newsweek late at night. And at this hour of the morning I'm telling you I can see the threads binding this Imus debacle to our national fatigue with Iraq to the Duke lacrosse scandal to what happened at Virginia Tech today. Maybe all of those elements reveal a certain lack of honesty in our society, a coarseness, a cruelty, a rush to judgment, a lack of deliberation.
Oh Lord, we need a change right now. The national grief that we're about to endure - we've endured it before. The jockeying of the politicians, the race cards thrown down with such glee by all sides, the lies we've grown accustomed to, the parsed language that says nothing at all, the relentless sense of entropy...! I've had it.
I think this country is anticipating the next election because we are desperate for a change, desperate for a signal of different things to come. I voted for John McCain in the Virginia primary seven years ago, but I think his moment has passed. I am tired of the Bush/Clinton seesaw, where one half of the country violently hates our president for four or eight years, and then we switch. If Chuck Hagel can jump in the mix, and get the Republicans to pull their heads out of their butts about evolution, stem cells, gay marriage, and other issues, I might look to him. But to be honest, right now I feel the language and unity and hope and fresh air of Barack Obama is exactly the remedy this country needs.
So, in this dark night - as the last shreds of a nor'easter bluster outside the window, as the carnage burns in Iraq, as thirty-some families mourn the loss of their kids and spouses in Blacksburg, as the professional screamers and sycophants in our society sleep in preparation for another day of meaningless combat, as we all get another night older - I'm voting Obama for president. May the election come tomorrow.