It’s been a sad few days for middle-achievers. To millions of Americans, the 43rd president carved a permanent place in their hearts as a compassionate conservative who prided himself in bipartisan leadership and steadfastly shaped public policy by saluting family and moral responsibility, limited government and local control. Others will forever suffer from post-traumatic stress as a result of George W. Bush’s legacy of a frighteningly unnecessary war, a total economic meltdown, and an environmental practice so irresponsible, the damaging effects will never be reversed.
But there also exists a third category of people: those who’ve spent the last eight years reveling in the election (at least once legitimately) of the first world leader to whom they could truly relate. Not since Vanilla Ice has one man so succinctly epitomized mediocrity — and in the case of former President George W. Bush, the wholly unexceptional qualities so closely associated with nepotism gone wild.
He was the president for those who agree that acting decisively and staying the course trumps the actual quality and value of the decisions made. Who cares about the blood, lice, frogs, disease, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and death encountered along the way? Pick a destination and never waiver from its path, no matter what, is the motto of the intellectually unencumbered. Admitting defeat is a character flaw embraced only by motivated sissies. Besides, it’s a fair amount of work to choose and implement a new strategy, especially when the end of a perfectly so-so mission is in sight.
To the delight of all those who thought for eight years, “If he can do it, so can I,” not one madman deemed W. hateful enough to succeed in a bona fide assassination attempt like the ones on Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt. Being the target of a shoe during a press conference where everyone in attendance had to pass through a metal detector is emotionally manageable. Ducking a size 10 Ducati Model 271 loafer is physically relatable.
When George H.W. Bush was commander-in-chief, he famously and spectacularly vomited and collapsed during a state dinner at the home of the Japanese prime minister. However, not one for that kind of drama during his administration, President George W. Bush choked on a pretzel while watching a football game on TV, fainted, fell off the couch and then had to summon the White House doctor on his own after his dogs woke him up because his wife was in the next room. A classic middle-achiever move, for sure. The time he was in China and was caught trying to open a locked door in front of a bunch of journalists chronicling his every move? Straight out of the middle-achiever’s handbook. So which high profile figure can middle-achievers admire now that a new president has taken office? Certainly not Barack Obama. With his fancy grammar and uncanny ability to chew and swallow without incident, he’s a classic overachiever. After all, there must be very few people who read “Dreams from My Father” and believe yes, they can, too.
It wouldn’t have been terrible for middle-achievers if Bill Richardson had been elected president. The governor of New Mexico (and former presidential candidate) recently withdrew himself from consideration for commerce secretary amid the whiff of scandal from an ongoing federal grand jury investigation into state contracting. Underachievers are too lazy and/or dumb to figure out how to execute a successful bribe. Overachievers don’t need bribes in the first place. Middle-achievers are just smart enough to think they can get away with it, although not so clever that they ever actually do (paging Rod Blagojevich). With his used car salesman-like looks and ways, John Edwards would also have been a fine middle-achiever successor. But sadly, the National Enquirer poster boy (Cheats on cancer-stricken wife! Fathers child out of wedlock! Has supporter buy mistress’ silence!) couldn’t keep his fly zippered long enough to eke into office.
Speaking of zippered flies, there are plenty of middle-achievers who would have been just fine if the immortal borderline middle/overachiever Bill Clinton moved back into the Oval Office. Sure Linda Tripp busted him with his pants down (D’oh!), thereby putting an asterisk next to his name in the history books. But he’s clearly a super bright guy who got where he was with a mixture of luck, personality and good old-fashioned smarts. Daddy might be able to get you into Yale, but he can’t make you a Phi Beta Kappa. Or a Rhodes Scholar.
Don’t feel too bad for middle-achievers, though. It shouldn’t be too long before a new role model emerges. Which is a good thing, since middle-achievers aren’t looking too hard for a new leader. After all, a search like that can be kind of draining and they’ll just settle for anyone who comes along anyway.
E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.