First, a correction. The "Joe" I was responding to in my entry last week entitled An Exchange was in fact not Joe, but Bob. I changed his name for fear of invading his privacy. He quickly wrote permitting me to use his name and pass on a link to his blog, Right Thoughts. I mentioned then that Bob is a friend whose integrity as a man I do not question; I have done some pretty intense and sometimes painfully honest inner work with him under the auspices of The ManKind Project. I also mentioned that his political views are at the opposite end of the political spectrum from my own. My entry was an attempt to respond to a challenge from him to define what a successful presidency would comprise, and what the country might look like after a second Obama term. His reply came back as follows:
Thanks for the reply and yes it comes across as a "bumper sticker." I'm not surprised but I am saddened that you can't define the measure of success. This isn't a left or right, liberal or conservative, or democrat or republican comment - it's about the values I hold and expect from someone I've hired. How will you know at the end of his second term if Obama has achieved a "safe and efficiently functioning" country? What would that look like? Fewer people unemployed; greater incomes; lower federal deficits; fewer people in poverty; adherence to the rule of law; etc.? Paint the picture for me of the America you and Obama want to achieve.
Have a great day and thanks again for your timely response.
Now, to add to the confusion, Bob sent his original query to myself and another old associate, a man who is in actual fact named Joe. I have not seen him for many years, but I gather that he shares some of my political beliefs. I'm still working on some thoughts about Bob's "bumper sticker" response, but in the meantime I just received from Joe a copy of his reply to Bob. Here it is:
With the caveat that a successful presidency isn’t always measurable during the terms of the President, I would say that a successful presidency is one in which the commonweal--the wholeness, health and wealth of the greatest number of society is preserved, moved forward, or the groundwork for such is laid. Some indicators:
-Reduced wars and increased peacetime (war is a huge destructor of societies because resources go into armaments rather than invested in people and societal structures)-Educational measures such as literacy and level of education achieved rise.-real incomes and net worth levels rise and the rise is across the board, not just in a narrow sector (although I think presidencies have a rather indirect/muted influence on economies, especially in a global age)-infant mortality declines and life expectancies rise-environmental indicators move in a positive direction--soils, water, air, species/diversity-optimism about the future increases.
I think Obama’s policies, which are pretty aligned with Eisenhower’s, strive to support a broad middle class with rising incomes, education and health care levels, investment in infrastructure (then highways, now railroads and renewable energy), and a rise in civil rights (started during Eisenhower--Little Rock, etc).Successful presidencies in my lifetime include Eisenhower, Johnson’s first term and first half of second, Nixon’s first term (Nixon was the last truly liberal president), Reagan, Clinton’s middle years (after health care debacle and before Monica). Kennedy was charismatic but dangerously incompetent, Ford never got his stride, Carter was pretty ineffective, Bush 1 good the first two years, especially on clean air and water acts, and his internationalist approach and lost his way the second half; and Bush 2 was a disaster we are still feeling. I only lived through the last 9 months of the Truman years, but he did a pretty good job, except perhaps for Korea, although Macarthur was a loose cannon he had to rein in.
If Obama’s policies are able to take full effect, look for a repeat of the Eisenhower years--solid middle class, boosted economy, but with awakened environmental sensibilities and a more socially libertarian society.
My free commentary, probably worth what you paid for it. Thanks for asking. And you know, despite our political and religious differences, I’d walk through fire with you and trust you at my back anytime, anyplace.
More of my own thoughts on this discussion to follow. I'm thankful to Joe for doing a much better job than I in responding to Bob's needs for measurable indicators of success. Any further thoughts from readers? We really do need to be able to find ways of talking to each other across the divide.