It's a funny piece (pulling up to the White House in a falling-apart Jeep, realizing in the elevator he's got half a joint in his pocket,) but also a sad one. Consistent with everything else I've ever read about him, the president, personally, is a really nice guy and a gracious host. On the one hand, you're sitting at the dinner table with your friend and her mom and dad, and it works no differently than anywhere else in the country. On the other hand, it isn't anywhere else in the country. Or the world. It's hard to separate the history of the place from the scene inside it at the moment. It's hard to separate the office from the man who occupies it. Smith brings out the conflict he feels there, particularly after September 11th. He feels wrong sitting around watching bad movies with the President when the country is still in a borderline state of panic, and his uniformed peers are going off to war.
There's been a bunch of articles lately, about the president wrapping up his term in office, looking back and discussing his accomplishments. The press on the left has had a field day cracking wise about it--"Can you BELIEVE he has the nerve to say this?" You know, I'm inclined to believe he really does believe what he's saying. He really thinks he did his best to do the right thing for the country. I think again about how he'll be rememberd in history... he may be remembered as a man who was not as attentive as he should have been, or as considerate of the lives he affected.
Was Kanye right? Does he not care about black people? Perhaps he thinks he does. But he certainly did not inform himself so that he could do what that care actually demanded of him. Smith was a member of the Yale class that turned its back on the president during his commencement speech. The man is not without feeling--that got to him. I think he'll be remembered as a man who was not intellectually or emotionally prepared, who was not mature enough for the demands of the office he won election to. I wonder if he'll come to appreciate that as he gets older. It wouldn't make up for the damage he's done to this nation, the world, and the lives of so many of the people in it. But if he would accept that, and perhaps speak of it in time, to be a better civic lesson, it might be some small measure of personal, spiritual redemption.