Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration 2009

I did not vote for Barack Obama. I did not want him to be elected President. His vision of the role of the federal government is, I fear, radically different from my own.

That said, today was a marvelous day. It is deeply satisfying to watch the orderly transition of power from executive to another, even if you do not personally agree with it. Today's transition carries with it a further benefit. I have never felt, in my adult lifetime, that race was a disqualifying factor in political life, and whether or not it was true earlier, it is no longer debatable. This is good and right.

Odds and ends...

  • I avoided much of the media coverage. What I didn't avoid made me wish that I'd avoided more. It was utterly appalling.

  • While on the treadmill at the 'Y', I watched the closed-caption of ABC's coverage for a while, and witnessed a brilliant discussion about the speech, and how it was all Obama's, because, you know, he's a writer. Oh, he talked about it with his speechwriter in December, and worked with several historians, and then worked on it with his speechwriter again in January, but it's all Obama's.

  • On NBC, I heard a brief discussion about the superior moral character of the Obama family, the wondrous job that Barack and Michelle are doing raising their daughters because they're going to have to make their own beds in the White House.

  • Memo to all members of the mainstream press: He's a man. Period. The sycophancy and hagiographic coverage is nauseating.

  • I watched the inaugural address. I read the text. I saw and heard people raving about the speech, so I went back and watched it again. I don't get it. I honestly don't. I don't see the brilliance, I don't find any splendid rhetoric. When he delivers a speech, I see him using speech-delivery tricks and techniques. I mean obviously using them, like when someone on stage or in a movie is obviously acting rather than embodying a character. That's what I see when I watch Obama. I find absolutely nothing memorable about the speech or the delivery, and that's what I've seen everytime I've seen him. I honestly feel that his reputation as a speechmaker results in part from what George Bush called the "soft bigotry of low expectations," and in part from a subconcious recognition on the part of the assessors that the charge of racism lurks in the wings. I was profoundly unimpressed with that inaugural address.

  • I found this line - "our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed" - to be offensive. Whatever one feels about George W. Bush, there is no argument to be made that he "put off unpleasant decisions." One can disagree with his take on stem cell research, or going to war in Iraq, or attempting to head off the problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or addressing the looming crisis with Social Security, but one cannot argue that he "put off unpleasant decisions" about those things. That line in the speech is ungracious at best.

  • One of the things that struck me as the day wore on was how much affection I feel for George Bush. I thought he was a good and decent man when he took office, and I still think it today. I was surprised to choke up when he mounted the steps of the helicopter, and again when he went up the ramp onto the plane for the flight back to Texas. I don't agree with everything that he did in office, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I think that he is a good man, and I think that we'll have reason to be thankful for John Roberts and Samuel Alito in the future, and I think that the big things (tax cuts, the war) he got right. I'm sorry to see him go.

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