So today is Presidents’ Day. I guess we have to celebrate them all now, even the one from my home state, Franklin Pierce. It’s only fair I suppose.
Quite a few presidents have served in my lifetime. I should think about them for a bit….
I was born in the Eisenhower administration. Alaska and Hawaii became states that year. Vice President Nixon debated Khrushchev in a model kitchen. But I was just a baby, concerned with other things, like colors and shapes.
My memory was still pretty hazy in November of 1963. I recall the family, all home together as the usual television programs were pre-empted for a funeral. All I could see was a horse-drawn long wagon with a flag covering something inside. I asked what was happening. Nobody answered.
President Johnson was just an old guy with big ears who used to pop up on TV every now and then. I had no clue what he was talking about. The grown ups in my world sometime disagreed with him, usually about his decision to send more troops to Vietnam.
Nixon beat my elementary-school-era choice for president in 1968, Hubert Humphrey. I guess I just liked Humphrey’s face. I had no opinion about Nixon until years later, and even then was unclear about the whole resignation thing. I heard a lot of older people saying, “Hey, they all do that stuff. Nixon just got caught, that’s all.” Um, no.
I kind of liked Gerald Ford. He had this everyman quality. The press gave him a sort of honeymoon, until he pardoned Nixon. Then the gloves came off.
I much preferred Ford to the peanut farmer who came out of nowhere, Jimmy Carter. I still don’t know how the hell Carter won, but every time he spoke I cringed at that stupid accent. Fast forward several decades and I have great respect for ex-president Carter.
The peanut farmer debated a former actor in October of 1980. I was now eligible to vote, but stayed home. These were my choices? Forget it. Reagan seemed to live a charmed existence, even acquiring a nickname, The Teflon President. Until he got shot. But even after that. Until Iran-Contra.
I voted for Walter Mondale in 1984. The next four years went by very slowly.
I liked George Bush, the father. He looked and sounded like he knew what he was doing. He took us to war, but it was a controlled one, with a firm ending date. The economy tanked after that, and he seemed clueless. Too bad. A new guy came along with the tagline, It’s the Economy, Stupid, and he won.
Bill Clinton was the first winning presidential candidate that I had voted for. He got off to a shaky start, but was a quick study. He got so good at the job he seemed to disappear into it, until the sex scandal. That odd episode seems almost quaint today.
George Bush, the son? You gotta be kidding me. Hated, hated, hated him. Dragged us into never ending wars. Now he paints portraits of wounded veterans. Wish I was making this up.
I thought 2008 would never arrive.
But it did, and my choice for president was elected again. I think we all took Obama for granted. The finest leader in my lifetime, who seemed born for the job. There were long periods that I could actually forget about the president, because he was No Drama Obama, and I knew we were in good hands.
Unlike today, goddamn it.