Throughout Barack Obama's candidacy and during the infancy of his presidency, I warned my mother, a staunch Obama supporter, that the demonization of George W. Bush would haunt President Obama.
She gets it now, now that the BP oil spill has turned into Obama's Hurricane Katrina.
Does President Obama get it?
That is our best hope for changing the destructive American political culture he inherited and fueled.
Last week, President Obama visited the gulf and conducted a news conference in which he took responsibility for the man-made environmental catastrophe and its late-starting, half-hearted cleanup.
The truth of the oil spill is far more complex than a sitting president blaming himself for a calamity a good 80 years in the making and promising to oversee a solution he can't possibly comprehend.
We love oil. There's virtually no ethical or moral principle we won't sell out in pursuit of it. And many of us have been convinced that satisfying the greeds of major corporations are more important than satisfying the needs of Mother Nature.
President Obama is well aware of all this. But I give him credit for manning up and shouldering the blame for a disaster his critics were going to lay at his feet with or without his assistance.
That's presidential. That's bold leadership.
While he's in a magnanimous spirit, I suggest he take ownership of America's political quagmire, too. In his quest to gain entrance into the Oval Office, Obama contributed to the American tradition of demonizing the incumbent president and squeezing every ounce of political capital out of every unfortunate tragedy.
President Bush critic and Hurricane Katrina publicity-hound Kanye West had to spoil Taylor Swift's MTV Award before Obama realized the rapper is/was a jackass.
I'm not suggesting Obama and his administration created our current political climate or even played its dirty games better than Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. And I'm not suggesting Bush, Cheney and Rove were superior to the Clintons and James Carville.
What I'm suggesting is that some U.S. president must rise above it and lead a revolution that overthrows our marketplace of demagoguery and restores our marketplace of ideas. It's going to take the mass marketing of fresh ideas to get Americans to embrace the kind of alternative-energy solutions that would make environmental disasters and U.S.-involved Middle East wars less likely.
As best I can remember, that was the type of change my mother and Obama's supporters believed in. He convinced them he would be different.
Well, different would be taking responsibility for all the problems he inherited, including our substance-less, counter-productive political discourse, and working toward real change.
I'd love to see Obama acknowledge that the vitriol lobbed at President Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was over the top. Every presidential misstep is not evidence of evilness, a lack of compassion or incompetence.
Sometimes it's simply an indication of the difficulty of the job.
America is the world's ultimate experiment. Our economic, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity combined with our commitment to fairness make our predicaments far more complicated than those of our peers.
Freedom and fairness come with a significantly heavier price tag than freedom for a select few and unfairness for minorities, women and gays. The job of U.S. president becomes more difficult each decade.
Democrats and Republicans are locked in a smack-talk battle that resembles Ali and Frazier's "Thrilla in Manila," and the media are playing the role of promoter Don King. Identifying the group responsible for the first punch (Watergate? Robert Bork? Monica Lewinsky?) is irrelevant. Recognizing that the exchanges of unjust characterizations stand in the way of our progress is important.
Someone needs to take on the responsibility of being the bigger man and defuse a bit of the animosity with an apology. Having walked a couple of miles in Bush's shoes, President Obama is the perfect candidate.