This country has had only three great Presidents.
Washington. Lincoln. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In the house where I grew up Roosevelt was still a living presence. Actually, in the country I was born in he was still the President. His ghost guided the nation and haunted his successors and kept them in line. The first seven of them, at any rate. Even Nixon had to propitiate his spirit.
Reagan defied it but in the end he had to make an uneasy peace with it. But George W. Bush has come close to exorcising it at last. Reagan thought he could get rid of Roosevelt by declaring the New Deal over and ending some of its programs. But Bush, the accidental genius, has out-Reaganed Reagan by screwing up the government FDR built and the nation he forged from top to bottom. It doesn't matter how much of the New Deal remains in place if none of it works.
Obviously I think highly of FDR.
But he was just a man and just a politician, the most brilliant politician to ever hold the office, which means he was the most gifted when it came to the art of the deal.
Roosevelt wheeled and dealed.
That's a way of saying he compromised.
A word that is synonymous in a lot of people's minds with "sold out."
Unfortunately, it real life it often does mean selling out some people.
FDR saved the United States. He made it a better place too. We love him for it now.
But how would we have felt if we---and apologies to my readers over 70, but by we here I mean those of us in the liberal blogosphere who were not alive or old enough to understand what was going on back then---were around to see him make deals with Big Business to get their support and trade away rights and opportunities for black Americans for the votes of Southern populist but racist politicians who were glad to embrace the New Deal but only for their white constituents? How would we have felt when he turned away Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler's Europe and ordered the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans and then asked their sons to go fight and die for the country that did not trust their loyalty? What would we thought when the firestorms engulfed Tokyo and Dresden? And how would we have reacted when we learned what he'd given away to Stalin at Yalta and that the bombs that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki were his legacies?
One of the only three great Presidents we've had and he failed us and himself and his God---FDR was a believer, by the way---so many times.
Look at what FDR did and look at what he did wrong and look at all he wasn't able to do.
Now tell me.
What did you think President Hillary Clinton was going to be able to do?
What do you think President Barack Obama will manage to accomplish?
I'll tell you what. I won't be satisfied but I will be glad (and amazed) if at the end of eight years these things are done:
The war in Iraq is over.
We have a federal regulatory system that doesn't let tainted meat into the supermarkets and allow poisoned toys to wind up in the hands of our children.
Our Justice Department is a department of justice and no longer the legal legbreakers for the Republican Party.
We have at least one more even moderately liberal judge on the Supreme Court.
We have something close to affordable, universal health insurance.
We have made some strides towards reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and slowing global climate change.
That's far from all I'd like the next President to have accomplished but it's still a tall order, even for another FDR, which we aren't going to get.
But none of that needs another FDR to get done. It just needs a well-intentioned and competent Democratic President and a real Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.
This is why I've kept saying and will keep saying that more than it matters which one is in the White House, Clinton or Obama, it matters who is in running the show in Congress. Right now it's the Bush Dogs and the Republicans.
The next President doesn't have to be another FDR for another reason.
We already had FDR for President.
His government and country are still there. What the next President needs to do is steer us back towards it. We're off course. But his ghost is there, up there on the highland, waving to us, showing us the way home.
We'll get there.
We don't need a great sailor at the helm.
Just a captain who can follow his own nose and a crew willing to put their backs into it.
We're the crew.