As a former airline pilot I used to hear guys complain about their wives and ex-wives all the time. I told them I didn’t want to hear it. Your spouse is the only significant relationship in your life that you get to pick. Your parents and siblings are given to you. Your kids are given to you. But you picked your wife. “If she’s a b*&ch then you’re a moron,” I used to tell them. “You picked poorly.”
It seems common among newly divorced people to tear down their ex. I guess somehow it makes the one party feel better to believe that all that went wrong was someone else’s fault and they are simply the victim. Of course, not only do we all know that this is never the case, but I’ve never understood how these folks feel their position is advanced by making derogatory remarks about someone they once loved; how they feel that they are somehow better because their ex is a moron of epic proportions. Do they honestly feel better spending their days pondering what accident would befall their former mate if, for just one day, they were omnipotent? Can’t it simply be that both people are relatively fine folks who can simply no longer live together? Good night! For the sake of the kids play nicely.
Listening and reading to the recent palaver surrounding President Barack Obama’s interaction with Hugo Chavez seems just as illogical. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich charged Monday that President Obama’s cordial greeting with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez sends a poor message to enemies of America. Gingrich isn’t the only one. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, told CNN on Sunday it was “irresponsible” for Obama to have been seen “laughing and joking” with Chavez. Republican talk radio is on our Commander in Chief for this egregious blunder like a fat boy on a cupcake.
So what’s the plan, gents? Continue the politics of clenched teeth and furrowed brows that has been so successful the last eight years? Unfortunately, we’re getting exactly what we knew we’d get from Republican talk radio with a democrat in office—at least four years of “nuh uh.” No matter what the President does, RTR bashes away. No substantive discussion of another way to handle the situation. No introspective pause to wonder if, perhaps, the guy has a plan. It’s been a hundred days and as a fairly consistent republican voter I continue to be embarrassed by this association.
When I instructed pilots at a major US airline, I had to find different approaches to reach different students. Of course, like most, I have a default—an approach that generally works best for me in most circumstances. Sometimes, though, I had to take a student aside and tell him, “You’re the greatest pilot in the world. Anybody could have made that mistake (ugh—killed 200 passengers in the simulator). You’ll do better, I just know it.” Gag me. What I wanted to say was, “Nut up, man, and do your job. I don’t have the time or inclination to blow sunshine up your skirt.” And sometimes I had to take a student aside and rattle his cage: “Sweet fancy Moses that sucked. That was horrible; despicable. You’re lucky I let you back in the simulator to try that again. If you did that in real life you’d kill hundreds of people. I’m fairly confident you’re the worst pilot I’ve ever seen.” I didn’t like to berate people, but some people only respond when you call them out. But, as I said, I had a default. I was generally an honest encourager who used some humor to get through the day.
I’m going to bet I’m not alone. It could be that our new CINC has decided to make nice—to attempt to co-opt other world leaders to work with him. Maybe his default is to be an encourager. It would certainly seem that way. Maybe he’s got a whole good cop/bad cop thing going on and he’s leaving the dirty work to his underlings. I’m open to the idea that someone at State (Hil seems like a sweetheart doesn’t she?) is taking the time to explain the situation to Mr. Chavez: the olive branch is offered but the sword is at the ready and if you want to do this the hard way, we can certainly do that too.
But the pundits see only the moment. If these same folks had been asked to comment on D-Day they would have concluded that by noon on June 6 all was lost. Clearly no victory could come from such an ill-conceived plan.
I’ll tell you the response I really liked though: Obama’s response to the criticism. “I’m the President of the United States and I’ll handle these situations any d*#n way I please and you all can blow it out your a#$.” Ok those were my words summarizing what he said. He was much more Presidential: “And in all these conversations, here’s what I emphasized,” Obama actually said, “that we’re not going to agree on every issue, but that, as long as we are respectful of democratic processes, as long as we’re respectful of principles of sovereignty for all nations, that we can find areas where we can work in common.”
I don’t need to agree with him. But we’re stuck with each other now. Are we really going to go through four years criticizing his every move just because he’s a Democrat? For the sake of the kids, er, country, can’t we just give him a chance? Sink or swim and he’s in the deep water now. If he blows it, he blows it. And I’ll be first in line with the frosting and the sprinkles.