Bush, Clinton, etc.: Five presidents descending the staircase

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that in our early days we saw ourselves ascending the stairs. Perhaps we in the West have been descending since 1910 when Marcel Duchamp set the tone with his famous archetypal painting Nude Descending a Staircase. The total destruction of Europe would begin within a decade. It has been the hallmark of Western art since. Now, Clinton wants to be the nude descending the staircase.

But in this benign bunch, each, except Carter and Obama, pitches a relative to reach the gray and musty place in the damp basement at the bottom of the stairs. Maybe it will be Hillary. Maybe it will be what Ann Coulter calls one of the "... endless Bushes ... Shemp and Zippo.”

History will recall the Clinton/Bush/Obama descent as the time when globalism ended and perhaps America as we knew it ended as well. Separatist movements began in America with The League of the South in the first Clinton days. They spread to Vermont and New Hampshire with Bush II. They morphed into 35-state sovereignty movements in Obama’s first term, and at the gateway to his second, people in all 50 states petitioned the government for secession.

And pop culture poets tell a story different than Emerson’s vision of rising karma: On TV, "Mad Men" brings a world which ends in 1968; "Sons of Anarchy," inspired by the writings of Emma Goldman, sees a new California of five tribes: Anarchists, Nordics, Mayans, etc., born in the same year. And the stunning "Game of Thrones" offers cosmic beginnings again from scratch, a tribal Mahabharata for all the English-speaking people.

None of these men will be remembered as great presidents or even good presidents. They will be remembered for American in between; between our last epic days and those awaiting just around the corner. Between, we find nobility and strength where we must, catch as catch can, and two might be remembered as benchmarks today: Eisenhower and Barbara Bush.

Eisenhower painted late in life as well, and when Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen asked, “What’s the symbolism in this one, General?” Ike responded “in that plain, flat-as-Kansas accent of his," saying, "Let’s get something straight here, Cohen. They would have burned this [expletive] a long time ago if I weren’t the president of the United States.”

Today, the Journal and The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin can think of little more than Jeb Bush. (Rubin: “He can tell Republicans a lot about what sort of candidate they should look for.”) As America descends to its own Game of Thrones we should turn instead to the steady matriarch who has guided us through 12 years of the  presidency, Barbara Bush: “We’ve had enough of Bushes,” she says.

Clintons, too, and Kennedys.