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America's return to competence

Posted: January 20, 2009 8:31 p.m.
Updated: January 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Gary Horton Gary Horton
Gary Horton

"Optimism Sweeps Nation."

So announce banner headlines throughout the nation. Media as diverse as Fox to The Economist to our beloved Signal are chock-a-bloc overflowing with good will toward President Barack Obama.

With approval ratings through the roof and reports of lions sleeping with lambs, America basks in the moment, celebrating its remarkable wisdom in choosing such a capable and uniquely American president.

Hail to the Chief! Congratulations to us all!

May President Obama serve us well, and may we each, in turn, heed his call to serve the nation in renewed mutual goodwill.

Meanwhile, "back at the ranch," outgoing President George W. Bush hunkers down to suffer history's harsh judgment.

As a nation and as individuals, we've paid prices far too dear for false sentimentality at his exit.

An inverse reflection of Obama, George Bush flees the rubble he's left behind with a dismal 20 percent approval rating.

Never one for introspection or humility, Bush took to the airways last Thursday attempting a last-ditch salvage of his legacy.

"Still delusional after all these years," one commentator quipped.

So, for the last time, George Bush wrestled with the Teleprompter, cluing in us clueless on what really went down.
History would judge him a brave, prudent, disciplined president, he claimed.

That he took the tough steps that had to be taken.

That he inherited a recession and he left in a recession. Blah, blah, blah. Arrogant detachment is again what's proven to be Bush's factual legacy.

W's pitch spanned only 13 minutes, but the whole world had tuned him out months ago. Like most Americans, I missed his live address.

Later that evening, I drudged it from oblivion on YouTube. I only got half way through before tossing in the towel. As always with Bush, as if on a perpetual sound loop, we heard "terrorist" over and over and over.

Sorry, Dubya, you're too sorry to watch. Good riddance, and may God save your blood-stained soul.

In wonderful symbolism of America's post-Bush renewal, and as an ironic last slap at the departing Wrecker-in-Chief, just hours before Bush's speech, Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger was heroically landing his catastrophically damaged Airbus 320 in the Hudson River.

Through the night and next day, TV news fixated on Sullenberger and his rescue of passengers and crew. News stations begrudgingly suffered Bush his 13 self-serving minutes, only to immediately cut back to the real deal in Capt. Sullenberger.

That Friday, Sullenberger bumped Bush from the front page to the classified section in newspapers throughout the country.

Instead of Bush's excuses, readers opened their papers to a real hero, a real decision-maker, in the outstanding person of Capt. Sullenberger.

The contrast was profound. Sully is the consummate calm professional. Having begun flying as a teen, he's continually perfected his craft to the current day.

Through his seven years of Air Force service and 30 years in commercial aviation, Sully became the leading expert in his field of flight safety. Sully is the pro's pro - without self-aggrandizement.

Despite his miraculous salvation of 150 souls, Captain Sullenberger humbly turned away from the cameras. No interviews. No chest thumping. No credit taking.

His wife told the press that Sully is always that keenly humble. Just doing his job, and doing it perfectly.

So much unlike that other man on TV sidestepping his accountability. With Capt. Sullenberger, the jets never hit the Twin Towers. With Sully, the levies held up during the storm.

With Sully, the financial crisis was stopped before it started. Sully won't ever have to reconstruct his legacy because his legacy is built on real accomplishment.

Capt. Sullenberger's wounded A320 didn't crash into the city. It didn't hit the bridge. It didn't kill all on board.

Instead, with awe-inspiring competence, Sully made the right decisions the first time, and as a result, all his passengers safely exited his plane just minutes after the watery landing.

The last man off, Capt. Sully calmly walked the jet's aisles twice before emerging from the jetliner carrying his clipboard affirming all passengers accounted for and safe.

What poise and competence.

America cheered Capt. Sullenberger, while President Bush skulked from the American ship he sunk. Sully instantly became the fresh image of resurging American can-do attitude and our ability to overcome.

Just as Sully overcame the "impossible," America can overcome all that daunts us with dedicated effort and humility.

Sully was icing on the cake as America jubilantly partied and hit the national reset button.

Enter now another incredible hero. Another remarkable, humble professional who inspires us all: President Barack

Obama, a lower-middle-class Hawaiian turned Harvard grad, turned community organizer, turned U.S. senator, turned U.S. president.

Defying all odds, Obama steps in to save America after Bush clobbered our engines, sending us into a tailspin. He'll need the same steady nerve and steely mind as Capt. Sullenberger, for sure.

But starting today, Obama's first full day at the controls, we're already steadying our course, heading for a safe and happy landing.

Thank you, Capt. Sullenberger and President Obama. What inspiring and renewing change for America and for the whole world.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. "Full Speed to Port" appears Wednesdays in The Signal. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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