Whoopi Goldberg: Obama’s Great, But the Next Two Years Are Going to Be Tough

We’re on the road to something brand-new, and hopefully it will be better than where we are, right this moment

Well, we’re on the eve of the Inaugural.

Millions of people, they say, are going to be watching Barack Obama sworn in as the first black president of the United States of America. To say that I am out of my mind with delight would be an understatement. To say that I am out of my mind with delight that I am not going would not. Lots of people are going to be going to this thing, because people want to see it — they want to be there for history. But I’ve discovered something about myself and this new age that we live in: I’m quite content to watch history happen on the television.

Why, you might ask, is that my decision? Well, first of all, I started thinking about being surrounded by millions and millions of people all trying to see the teeny-weenie little dot up on the platform that is Barack. So I figure, “OK, can I handle millions and millions of people?” Yes, I could do that, but in the event that you have to go to the bathroom or that some strange flip-flop happened in your stomach because you were too tense — well that got me thinking: How would I get through all those people to go the loo?

Now, I’m not going to be sitting with the VIPs because I’m just an IP — not a VIP, just an IP — and I realized that I would be in the middle of all of that, unable to drive in any direction I chose. And if, for whatever reason, there was a moment of panic on my part, I would not be able to move. So I thought better to sit at home and not have to look like an IP, not have to think about how I will get to one of the many port-a-potties that will be there. Just the basic stuff.

Forget all the amazement, the idea that, for the first time in history, in the history of our country, someone who wasn’t a Caucasian man was going to be president of the United States. Do I think that’s a great thing? Yes, of course. But boy, does he have his work cut out for him! I listened to a lot of people talk about all the reasons that some of the decisions he’s making are wrong, and I thought, “Well, if they were wrong, why didn’t anybody start to correct the problems as they happened?” Surely all those Republican and Democratic senators who were sitting for the last eight years saw what was coming, and maybe they were all so brilliant that they couldn’t figure out how to articulate the problems at hand. But now, since we have a new guy coming in, it seems everyone has the information.

Let’s take a look at the economic picture. I’ve talked to a couple of great folks that I know who said, “You know, the only way we’re going to be able to move forward, is taking and creating a gazillion dollars to put into our system of government right now, and the government has to take care of this. The government has to bail out business because business is so far down and so far out of control that it cannot right itself. So government has to step in and go, ‘This is how we’re doing it. This is what you’re going to get. This is the situation we’re going to take hold of piece by piece.’”

I find it extraordinary as I listen to folks talk about the free-market system that they don’t recognize that the free-market system is truly broken and beyond repair so that we have to start all over again. I think Barack Obama sees this, and so I am very, very pleasantly surprised at his determination to fix something that is not of his making. As President Bush sails away into the sunset leaving us with a trillion-dollar debt, I think to myself, “I’m glad it’s Barack Obama, because at least he’s got a different way of looking at it.” He seems to be very realistic, he seems to have an idea of who we are as Americans and how we can, as individuals, take hold of this country and bring it to the place we want it to be. This is very exciting to me. I’m even getting all excited now, thinking, “Oh, well maybe I should go there and be part of history.” But I’m not going to slip into that. History is going to happen on my flat screen, in my house, where the toilet is and my snacks are. So if people come over to my house with little babies, they can actually bring their strollers. Or if they want to sit down on a chair of their own design, they can do that too, which you will not be able to do in Washington.

Then I started to think about health care. He’s made some interesting choices. Tom Daschle, I think, is a really smart choice because he’s a smart guy — I like him a lot. Sometimes I wish he might have turned out to be the vice president but I realized that just wasn’t going to happen. But then I started to think about this panic everyone is in with Leon Panetta. I kind of look at it like this: George H. W. Bush — the daddy — I don’t think he had a lot of experience when he took over the CIA, but he had ideas. So maybe Leon Panetta is a new idea guy, who knows how the system works, and he’s walking us through and saying, “Here’s what I’m going to do, here’s how I see it. Maybe it’s time for some of our actions to shift. I don’t say that we need to change the entire system, but maybe there are some things we need to tweak.” What else should we be thinking about? We should be thinking about what WE can do. What you and I can do to make sure that this transition is smooth. Because, remember now, this is the fastest this has ever happened. No other president has had to have his act together so quickly and have so much information for so many people to go over and mess with. Because they can’t just let you have your ideas — they have to talk about it and comment on it, the House and the Senate, and all these folks. And people keep saying, “Well, it’s going to be a Democratic Senate and it’s going to be a Democratic House, Congress, everybody’s going to be Democratic.” But I have to believe that within that group of people, if given the chance, better things can happen.

Because if we start thinking about ridiculous spending that went on — I will simply point out that eight years ago, we had money. Eight years later, we’re a trillion dollars in debt. Now, that’s not all President Bush, but some of it is him — quite a bit of it is his fault, actually. Not all of it; a lot of it is these people who just got greedy and piggish, and started to do silly things, lending money to people who had no way of paying it back and only thinking of themselves and their pockets.

We’ve also had a government wherein we’ve dismantled so many things that would put stopgaps on things that have gone really out of control. And I think that what is being proposed by Barack Obama might actually put us in a different head space. I’d really like that. I’d like to see better things happen for the United States. I’d like to see us become better people. I’d like to see us find our direction. But I know — and you know — that the next year or two are gonna be a bitch. Not just because the financial markets are in deep trouble, because the banks don’t want to lend money, because it ruins their status quo.

It was explained to me; I don’t think I could explain it to you righteously, but it made sense when I heard the explanation. Basically, the bank is sitting because they’re not below what their paperwork should say and they’re not above what their paperwork should say — they’re right at their paperwork mark and they don’t want to move from that.

Also, the housing market has to come back to realistic levels so people can actually afford to do the things that they want to do. If you want to buy a house, that is reasonable; you should be able to do that in this country and still feel like you’re moving forward. What’s going to happen in the banking industry? Nobody knows. What’s going to happen in the housing industry? Nobody knows. But what we do know is that it’s in the toilet and that it’s going to be there for a while. Is it going to get much, much worse? I’m afraid it is. I think it’s going to get much, much better though because Barack Obama can’t help himself but say, “This is what’s happening.” You know we all talk about transparency, but we can only handle so much transparency.

I think if we knew everything that was going on most of us would be bald, or most of us who are female who don’t have alopecia would be bald. In any case, I look forward to these next four years. I look forward to this magical day of the swearing in. I would have loved to go to some of the balls, but you know what that requires. It requires getting dressed, it requires putting on makeup, it requires being around lots of people wearing lots of perfume, which drives me crazy. It requires a lot of work to go and be gay and happy and fantastically fabulous in Washington. So I’ve decided that my best bet is to be gay and happy and fantastically fabulous right here, in my house with my cat and my better half and all my friends who are not going to Washington. We might even crack a bottle of champagne and do a little dance ourselves. But who wants to put that out there? You know, I’m a very subtle kind of girl.

In any case, cross your fingers, take a positive moment and say, “It may not get better immediately but we’re on the road to something brand new, and hopefully it will be better than where we are, right this moment.”

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