24 is a television series I don't watch. It is also a greater number of hours than Bush has left in his presidency. This brings joy to many people who are ready to shove him out the door and welcome our new president. Having voted for both men, I regret the callous nature of the public though I easily understand the mood.
There aren't many measures by which Bush was a successful president, and though I would argue he wasn't as terrible as some might say it would distract me from discussing the most important factor in his failings and worldwide perception. I personally think this to be the most important consideration of any leader and one that many people overlook.
The most important attribute of any president is his ability to communicate. I'm not speaking of eloquence or wit, but of the basic ability to convey ideas, excitement, purpose and character. This is an attribute Bush sorely lacked, and one that Obama obviously has in spades.
This affected not only the president but his entire administration through both ignorance and willful obfuscation Bush's presidency has been one of the least communicative in history. From explaining 9/11, to the justification for the war on Iraq, to standard press conferences he and his staff failed to make themselves understandable. This, unsurprisingly, turned America against them.
I say this not because I'm a particular expert on being president but because my experience as part of a leadership staff has shown me this first hand. The principle applies even in a group as small as a guild of fifty people playing a video game. When the leadership fails in communicating their intent, reasoning, and hope the relationship between them and those they lead crumbles at a staggering rate. Communication is as difficult as rock climbing, letting go is to commit to a freefall.
Freefall is a good word to describe our domestic, international and economic standings. Under a good presidency there would be some confidence that the president and the government cared, even if there were grave concerns about how such matters could come about in the first place. Under this presidency it was clear Bush and all who supported him were afraid of recession, and because they were afraid so were we. Bush missed his cue after Obama clearly stated "There is only one president at a time." He could have seized the moment, put on a brace countenance and showed us that he could lead, inspire, and bring about a better economy. Instead he faded into the shadows, leaving his most important job of instilling confidence to the president-elect months in advance.
Obama is beloved and adored not because he brainwashes his supporters, but because he communicates to them. That his ideas are large, hopeful, and inspiring unto themselves is helpful, but they are only ingredients, materials for him to cook and craft. It is his ability to communicate these ideas and how he thinks that has us so eager to see him inaugurated tomorrow. It is this ability that defeated more established politicians, and it is this ability that we will count on to make this a better nation.
But today I do not revel in the passing of Bush's presidency. Terrible as it may have been we are not blameless. A vote for Gore or Kerry is not a free pass, nor is a vote for Bush a damning mark. If, in the space between, you were a political non-entity there is no excuse. I look at today and think not only of the better job Bush might have done, but of what I too might have ventured and gained by seeking to participate more in a process designed to benefit those who would stand up for what their believe in, rather than sit down and watch it pass by on the television.