Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Finally, Day One

Like everyone else, I'm preparing to watch the inauguration, and it should be something special. There are things that disturb me about recent weeks, like the ubiquitous industry that Obama merchandise has become -- he's not a blockbuster movie; or, he shouldn't be -- but there's something undeniably momentous about this event, and for a few hours at least, it makes perfect sense to just celebrate. There's a lot of business and tough times ahead, but the fact is that the great-great-granddaughter of a slave is about to become our First Lady. If that's not reason to revel in symbolism and pride for a day, I don't know what is.

As for the incoming president, he wouldn't have more on his plate if he were entered in the Coney Island hot dog-eating contest. The real work starts now, but he handled the transition with the tone and seriousness that I had hoped for as a strong supporter. It doesn't surprise me at all that he offered Rick Warren a spot at the inauguration, or that he's been getting friendlier with Senator McCain. As Andrew Sullivan has written in recent days (this is a combination of lines from different posts):
(H)is great gift is showing that he does not expect people to change their convictions in order to find common areas of agreement. . . . (W)hat he has over Clinton is emotional intelligence to buttress his grasp of policy. What he gets, what he seems to intuit, is how to make others feel as if they are being heard. This is simple enough in theory but hard to pull off consistently in practice. . . . This is not typical for politicians in any climate and era. In the post-Clinton, post-Bush divide of the US, it’s a shock of sorts, and one most Washingtonians have yet to absorb. More shocks, I suspect, are to come, as people begin to realise that the new politics Obama promised is actually more than just a marketing device for a campaign.
One reason the hype doesn't bother me as much as it might is because Obama stands calmly in the middle of it. He might inspire silly expectations in some, but it doesn't seem that he buys into them for a minute. He remains inspirational, yes, but equally (or even more) pragmatic. I think that combination speaks to something very deeply rooted in this country, and it's why he'll enter office with the popular wind at his back.


Blogger Barbara Carlson said...

I sense the whole world has been watching the Inauguration to see the new face of America, a calm pragmatic intelligent grounded adult at the helm. As Hilliary said, the beginning of "smart power."

3:53 PM  

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