Look up the word “epilogue” and one of the definitions you will find says, “the final scene of a play or story that comments on or summarizes the main action.” The word epilogue, thus defined, now applies to the Barack Obama administration.
Of the seven presidents that have come since I have been voting, three have suffered terms with long, unpleasant epilogues. By that I mean that after a certain point, everything that happened in the remainders of their terms constituted little more than unhappy commentary.
For Richard Nixon, the epilogue began when the Watergate story completely took over the daily narrative of his presidency. Once the 18-minute gap in the White House tapes was revealed, everything that happened in Nixon’s remaining months in office was nothing but commentary on his malfeasance with respect to the Watergate break-in and cover-up. Nothing that Nixon tried or accomplished mattered after the Watergate story reached critical mass.
For the next elected president, Jimmy Carter, the epilogue began on November 4, 1979, a year to the day before he would be voted out of office. The event was the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Iran by a group of so-called “students” and the taking of 66 embassy personnel as hostages. For 444 days, the entire narrative on the Carter presidency revolved around the fact that the United States was apparently impotent in the face of what amounted to an act of war by the extremist regime that had taken over Iran. Fifty two of the 66 original hostages were held until minutes after Ronald Reagan took the oath of office on January 20, 1981. Nothing Carter did from November 4, 1979 on, including a botched rescue attempt, mattered.
Our current president now finds his administration in epilogue. When historians write the text, the epilogue of the Obama administration will begin with the ‘Summer of Recovery’ that wasn’t. The narrative will report the fact that the American people woke up and angrily noticed that a mind-wrenching increase in federal spending and a hitherto unimaginable explosion in federal debt accomplished nothing, save for the impoverishment of generations yet unborn.
The summer of 2010 marks the turning point for President Obama. Henceforth, nothing he does will matter. Everything will revolve around the fact that the post-partisan, bridge-building pragmatist that millions of Americans thought they were voting for was finally and irrevocably revealed to be nothing but a tone-deaf, left-wing ideologue who is incapable of changing course in the face of terrible results.
Epilogue presidencies are not pleasant and this epilogue will be a particularly long one. The last months of the Nixon and Carter administrations were chaotic and unsettling. Such will be the case, I fear, with the Obama presidency.
We here at street level, the men and women who make the economy work, are thus left to run out the clock on this prince of fools, all the while hoping that the fools who made him their prince have learned a hard lesson.