President Obama flew to Hawaii to visit his dying grandmother.
Of course you noticed I said “President”. I want to call him that in my mind. I have been obsessed with this election as never before, although I have been engaged by politics since I was a child. It was hard to bear eight years of the Bush-Cheney and Republican program of low taxes for the rich, feckless spending, war, trashing the Office of the Attorney General, torture, spying on our own citizens, feeding the greed of Wall Street with wanton deregulation, and trying to inject their own brand of fundamentalist “morality” and “science” into our lives and schools.
But this post is about grandmothers and grandchildren. I am wondering what it would be like to have a grandchild, or even a child — but that would not be quite the same — about to become president of the most powerful country in the world. Madelyn Dunham is having that experience. We don’t know whether she is well enough to savor it fully, because the Obama’s family has rightly erected a wall of privacy. But I can imagine her pride, and her feeling that she has left her mark on the planet that will be remembered long after she is gone.
I have 12 grandchildren. Four of them are ineligible to be president because, though they are American citizens, they were born in the United Kingdom. Our all-wise founding fathers, because they didn’t like Alexander Hamilton, put that disqualifier in the Constitution. Some of my grandchildren are already on a life path that clearly doesn’t lead to politics. Some are too young to evaluate — they range in age from 26 to 2.
What character traits are needed to become president? I think intelligence, creative thinking, audacity, single-mindedness, energy, certainty of one’s own correctness, combined with empathy for the needs and troubles of others. Verbal ability, humor and an engaging smile are a help.
I started to write his with the idea of trying to imagine which, if any, of my grandchildren might have the qualities needed to run for president. Though I can see some of the necessary qualities in each of them, it was too hard. They are all smart, verbal, creative, kind and good looking. Probably none of them has the necessary single minded desire or ambition. But I might be wrong. It’s just that they would have to want it so much.
Last night Jerry and I watched TV, a rare thing for us. We watched Obama’s half hour infomercial, and then a rally in Florida with Clinton, then a clip of Larry King Live with McCain. I realized how desperately both candidates wanted it. They get up before dawn, go all day, hopping from state to state, making speeches, making decisions and all the business that goes with campaigning. Just thinking about it makes me tired.
It is sad to see that John McCain wanted it so badly that he sacrificed his good reputation with falsehoods about Obama, embracing the moronic “Joe the plumber” as his spokesman, and the unconscionable choice of the foolish and demagogic Sarah Palin as his running mate.
May Madelyn Dunham live to see her grandson become president.
Sadly, she died the night before.
Now there is another grandmother in the news. Michelle’s mother, Marian Robinson, will probably move into the Whitehouse to be a stabilizing presence for her 2 pretty granddaughters as they begin their new life in the limelight.
What a lucky woman to be so useful at her time of life, and to be able to be so close to her grandchildren.