By Jim Heffernan
Before Michele Bachmann got to the point in her withdrawal speech in which she said she would “step aside” from her presidential campaign after finishing dead last in the Iowa Republican caucus, she repeated many of the themes she and other GOP hopefuls have been sounding throughout their campaigns:
They keep saying they want to “take back the country.”
I didn’t know the country had gone anywhere.
The United States (“of America,” as the politicians all add in case there was any confusion about which United States they might mean) seems pretty much the same to me as it has for most of my lifetime, a not inconsiderable period of time, it turns out.
Nevertheless, every time I hear Bachmann and Willard “Mitt” Romney and Republican also-rans say they want to take back the country, I wonder what they could possibly mean. I look out the window, and there it still is – the United States (of America) looking pretty much the way it has looked for the last half century-plus that I have been paying attention.
Still, when I hear them say these things about our country, I worry that I have somehow missed the theft of an entire nation and didn’t even notice. I wonder if I had Rip Van Winkled for a few decades and suddenly awakened to find that my country had been taken away.
So I jump in my car and drive around, looking for signs that my country had disappeared, and find that at least one small portion of the country, Duluth, Minnesota, is still there pretty much as I have always known it. There are cosmetic changes, of course, but there it is, a shining city on a hill, as President Reagan might have described it. And atop flagpoles, there they still are, the stars and stripes, forever waving in the wind.
I have a hunch the rest of the country is still out there, too.
So, I wonder what these Republican presidential aspirants and, one assumes, their supporters, mean when they say they want to take back the country. I hate to sound too cynical, but could it be that they mean they merely want to take back the presidency? Could that be it?
If that’s what they mean, they should say so. I sense that many tea-drinking Americans simply don’t accept President Barack Obama as a bona fide president like all of the white, male presidents of the past. Somehow, they can’t see him as as strong a commander in chief of the armed forces as past presidents, especially some of the great White House warriors like Reagan, who spent World War II in uniform on the 20th Century Fox lot in Hollywood making training films, or George W. Bush, our immediate past president, who flew for the Texas National Guard…over Texas, but not Vietnam.
It’s getting hard to find presidential candidates of either political party who have actually served in the armed forces, but Bush fils has probably taken care of that when vets of the wars he started begin to seek political office.
Finally, Michele Bachmann accuses Obama of being a “socialist” because he wants everyone in America (that’d be the United States that has gone somewhere and needs to be taken back) to have access to affordable health care.
That will be quite a change for America – health coverage for everyone, like in Canada and most of “old” Europe. I’d say bring it on, but somebody already said that. In a different context, of course.