Thursday, November 6, 2008

Good Luck, President Obama

Good luck, Mr. President. I am one of those Americans Barack Obama spoke to on election night, the ones who did not vote for him. He’s right – despite my loyal opposition, he will be my president.

Some other conservative commentators have said we should treat this new Democratic commander-in-chief with exactly the same respect they showed our outgoing Republican president. This is meant, of course, as a call to lambaste Obama from day one and never give the guy a break, as the Left has done to George W. Bush. I say no – our actions are not defined by those of our political adversaries.

I and others are fond of calling the GOP the party of grown-ups. Now, it’s time to act like it. We lost, fair and square. By all means, we should oppose ideas with which we disagree – this is a responsibility of citizenship. But it’s not personal – it’s just politics.

America is bigger than any election and the presidency is greater than any one man. After 16 years of anger (recall that Clinton Hatred preceded Bush Derangement Syndrome), it is time to differ as adults and let dissent end at the water’s edge.

Remember, also, that the presidency of the United States is often, and aptly, described as the toughest job in the world. Only the handful of fellows who have held the office can understand this fully. Mr. Obama, when they opened that massive file for your first intelligence briefing as president-elect, did its contents change your views? I have not read that file, nor have your breathless, face-painting supporters. Only you, sir, have the knowledge of its contents and the power to respond.

From your public pronouncements, I perceive weaknesses in your domestic and foreign policy agenda. But I am working with a bounded rationality and, to be a responsible citizen, I must give you some benefit of the doubt for the good of the nation. If you err, I will say so. Indeed, I have not been shy about criticising you before and, frankly, with all the rapturous adulation round about you, I should think you’d welcome some sober assessment. And sober it shall be, since I doubt any Republican touched a drop of Champagne on election night or since.

To be certain, most of the media will not only give Obama the benefit of the doubt, they will resist until the last possible moment the need to hold him responsible for his own mistakes – and even his most hysterical supporters must admit that he will make them. How long will President Bush be blamed for all that goes wrong? A year from now, a pipe could burst in the White House and the press will say, “See? Bush forgot to winterize the place.”

But, just as Republicans should not repay Democrats’ disrespect of our party’s president in kind, so responsible citizens are not beholden to the excesses of the news media. If NBC’s Chris Matthews wants to maintain his famous leg-thrill for four or eight years, so be it. The rest of us can keep our wits.

And so, President-Elect Obama, I wish you wisdom and Godspeed. If you falter in office, expect to hear about it but, if you outperform my expectations, I will be happy to say so.

Theo Caldwell, President of Caldwell Asset Management, Inc., is an investment advisor in the United States and Canada.