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Sunday, January 21, 2001

I think there must be some deficiency in me. Something makes me take people at their word, even in the face of a mountain of evidence. Something makes me nod and agree, even when I know a person has lied in the past. This is the defect in my character that has gotten me into so much trouble with telemarketers that I've had to pay for things I didn't mean to order. It's what nudges me to buy the extended warranty and the payment protection plan.

The problem is that I want to believe people. Sometimes that makes me a gullible sap who gets bit by the snake. It probably has something to do with the fact that I've been at the same job for fourteen years. It's not that the Boss lies to me, exactly. I trust him when he says that someday the Company will make a lot of money, and we'll all share the big profits. He means that, and it's probably kept me from looking out for myself as much as I should.

You see, the thing is, I feel a little guilty about being soft on our new president. It feels almost like a betrayal of what I've believed in all my life. I mean, I know he believes the environment isn't worth protecting if it'll cost one of his friends a dollar. I know he thinks women should let the Supreme Court, fortified by two or three new appointees, decide what they can do with their bodies. I know Charlton Heston no longer has to worry about anyone prying his guns from his cold, dead hands.

And so many people I respect have written so eloquently about their anger and fear and despair over what the next four years hold. Lynda, and Saundra, and Jessie, among others, have testified. And they're all probably right. They're justified in believing that people will be hurt, and lives will change for the worse. I know that. The African Americans who voted ninety percent against him can probably see through his smile and into his heart better than I can.

But I want to believe it can be different. History tells us that what we believe about a person, before they take office, often doesn't paint an accurate picture of what we can expect. Eisenhower didn't expect Earl Warren to be head of a Supreme Court that would strike so strongly against racial segregation. It took a Nixon to go to China. I'd like to think Bush has his China ahead of him.

Most of all, though, I want to make sure that rights are protected, and the gains made in recent years are not forfeited to the likes of Microsoft, and Big Oil, and Ralph Reed. I don't want to fall so much in love with the idea that things are going to work out, that I let it all slip away while I daydream.

I'll stand by what I said months ago. I don't think George W. Bush is up to the job of president. I think he's in so far over his head that someone else — Cheney? Ashcroft? Poppy? — will have to step in and really run the administration. Someone with even less of an electoral mandate than Bush himself has.

But I believe he wants to unite the country, and bring people together, and make opportunities available to all citizens. I just don't think he can do it, and I don't think the men behind the curtain care as much about these platitudes. They don't have to, do they? Because they don't answer to the American people.

So I don't know why I keep holding out hope, when things should seem so hopeless, and do seem so to many people. I guess part of the reason is that it's too late to say, "I don't want these people in power." These people are in power, and there's no hope, none, of getting them out for four years. We can't even send them the kind of message they'll understand for two years.

What's left but vigilance and activism? And the blind hope and faith that comes so naturally to me. It doesn't mean that my liberal credentials should be revoked. It's just a character flaw, but sometimes a useful one.

In light of all this, I'm praying (praying, I tell you) that NBC orders 26 or 39 more episodes of The West Wing. The illusion of caring and competence in Washington will have to do until the real thing comes along.

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