Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thoughts on Transfiguration Sunday

Today was Transfiguration Sunday.

In my church, my pastor spoke about what always crosses his mind on this day — the first reported "appearances" of Jesus on things like tortillas. has an interesting account of the "Shrine of the Miracle Tortilla," which my pastor mentioned in his sermon.

It was interesting to hear his thoughts, but I've been thinking about a different kind of transfiguration today — if, indeed, "transfiguration" is the right word for it.

Roget, by the way, defines transfiguration as "the process or result of changing from one appearance, state, or phase to another."

After church, I stopped off at the grocery store on my way home — and, in the checkout line, I saw one of those tabloids, which reported that George W. Bush is depressed and suicidal these days, following his departure from the White House, and that he feels a "tell-all" book, written by his wife, will destroy him.

It's not my intention to draw a conclusion here about Bush or his presidency or whether or not a book by his wife will destroy him in the eyes of his countrymen. But seeing that tabloid made me think about the choices Americans make when they come to the inevitable forks in the road.

Last year, for example, the fork in the road was the decision Democrats had to make between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when they were choosing their presidential nominee. The eventual nominee, of course, was Obama. He's only been president for a month, and it remains to be seen whether he was the best choice, but America, of course, actually wound up getting both candidates in leadership positions. Clinton is now secretary of state and will play a significant role in shaping American foreign policy in the years ahead.

In 2000, it was the Republicans who came to a fork in the road and had to make a choice between Bush and John McCain. It's still too early to determine whether the GOP — or the nation — made the right choice, but I think I can reach a few transfiguration conclusions.

Because of his age (and because Democrats had held the White House for the previous eight years), I'm inclined to believe that McCain's "time" to run for president was in 2000, not 2008. He was still in his 60s then. By 2008, he was in his 70s and the Republicans had held the White House for eight years. Conditions were more favorable for the Republican nominee in 2000 than they were in 2008.

And, of course, there was the economic meltdown last fall — which I believe sealed the deal for the Democrats. Until that happened, McCain still had a chance to make the race competitive. After that happened — and America started losing half a million jobs per month — the Republicans' chances of winning were slim and none.

Conditions weren't dire for the Democrats in 2000 — but there was a sense of "Clinton fatigue" in the land, even though Clinton was leaving office with a budget surplus for his successor. I'm still not convinced that Bush legitimately won that election, but I'm not sure that McCain wouldn't have been able to do so if he had been the nominee.

You could probably go back through the last couple of centuries and find all sorts of examples like that in American history.

But my thoughts today have been drawn to Jeane Dixon, the astrologer/psychic who achieved fame for allegedly predicting that John F. Kennedy would die in office. Before the 1956 election had been held, Dixon wrote in Parade magazine that the 1960 election would be "dominated by labor and won by a Democrat." She didn't predict who the Democratic nominee would be — and later admitted that, during the 1960 campaign, she thought Republican Richard Nixon would win.

I mention Dixon because, a few years before her death in 1997, I saw her being interviewed about her predictions and she said that she had warned Bobby Kennedy not to run for president in 1968. She said he was "rushing things" by seeking the nomination that year, that his "time" was really eight years later, in 1976.

She didn't say Kennedy would be killed if he sought the nomination in 1968. But, when one looks back at the events of 1968 and 1976, it's hard not to reach the conclusion that Dixon may have been on to something.

Ever since seeing that interview, it's been hard for me to think about the 1976 campaign — in which former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, who did resemble Kennedy, won the nomination and, ultimately, the election — without thinking of Dixon's comments.

I don't know if Dixon was correct about Kennedy or even if she predicted that his "time" to run for president was 1976, not 1968. I've heard many people say that, if he had not been assassinated, he would have beaten Richard Nixon and George Wallace in the general election, but that isn't necessarily true. Nixon might still have been elected, in part because Americans had been through eight years of Democratic rule and were ready for a change.

Another "what-if" from American history to ponder.

No comments: