Time for baby boomers to let go of the nation’s steering wheel

Author: Paula Noonan - July 27, 2017 - Updated: July 27, 2017

Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Presidencies since John Kennedy have been “owned” by generations.  Kennedy started the “greatest generation” cohort.  President Bill Clinton started the baby boomer reign.  It’s time for a new generation to steer the ship.

The “Greatest Generation” is great.  They lived the Great Depression, fought World War II and Korea, and created the biggest economic boom the world has seen.  The Greatest Generation presidents include Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. They ran the country from 1960 to 1992.

Unfortunately, for much of that time, it was more guns than roses.  VietNam, the boiling cauldron for young baby boomer men, set the tone.  Then there was the cold war, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, nuclear weapons, and the drug wars.  And, of course, there were the great social movements of civil rights trying to reverse Jim Crow and feminism bringing women into the workplace.  At the end, for baby boomers, it seemed the Greatest Generation leaders were never going to move along.

Baby boomers finally wrested the helm when Clinton beat President Bush with the help of Ross Perot.  Clinton had a big Electoral College win, but he eked out only a plurality of voters, given that almost 20 million people went for Perot. Sound familiar?

The baby boomer years in power are marked by more wars and a technology revolution beyond any other on earth.  But these presidencies brought personal and political messes far exceeding what any of the Great Generation could come up with, excepting Nixon and maybe Reagan, if Iranamuck counts.

It wasn’t that people didn’t know that Clinton was a philanderer when they voted for him.  Everyone knew he was an anti-VietNam war guy, which half the nation took as unpatriotic.  He won with his feminist wife. With the various women imbroglios and consequent lying, his presidency was ugly.

Was George W. Bush any better?  He didn’t quite dodge military service during Vietnam, but he sure didn’t fight over there. His youth was naughty. Sept. 11, and thus the war in Afghanistan, possibly could have been prevented.  His administration fudged its way into the Iraq war and set the stage for the big bust at the end of his watch.

It’s just bad when Democrats argue that Bush’s lying wars were worse than Clinton’s affairs, and it’s just as bad when the Republicans’ best moral argument is that Bush didn’t cheat on his wife.

President Barack Obama, the youngest of the baby boomer presidents, didn’t have personal scandals and didn’t start any wars.  He was almost a transition to a younger generation, but he didn’t get as much done as many Democrats wanted and got too much done, according to Republicans.

But now there’s President Donald Trump, at the oldest end of the baby boomer generation. In just six months, he’s in a “category five hurricane” mess-up, according to the Washington Post’s leaked reports from White House staff.  His crude comments, wild tweets, erratic policy, egocentrism, former womanizing, draft dodging, prevaricating, bombast, mismanagement, fighting with allies, and cozying up to unfriendly governments has taken baby boomer leadership to a whole new level of tragi-hilarity.

The western world and Russia need a massive reboot to get out from under these calamities.  Baby boomers have more than run their string.  Gen Xers and Millennials, please step up.  The helm needs a new generation to steer the ship.

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.