Tuesday, January 20, 2009

1/20/09 on the Capitol Steps

The big inaugural wrap up in short order:

Dr. Strangelove: Was there in his wheelchair. Talk about stranger than fiction. And not nearly as funny.

President Bush ('til noon): Just wanted to get the heck out of there. Even Dr. Strangelove was glaring at him. At least Obama gave him a hug, two hugs in fact.

Rick Warren: I was squirming through that god stuff and that African-American stuff at the beginning. And, at the end, I was thinking the Lord's Prayer a cheap shot to get the crowd to go along with the ruse. But in the middle, there actually were some good lines, asking for the things for which we might wish to be forgiven. A tall order.

The first thing that really got my attention: Aretha's hat.

The second thing: Aretha's voice.

Joe the VP: nice job on your oath, Joe. You got the job.

John Williams' musical piece: a piece of #%$! At least Aaron Copeland showed respect for the simplicity of the traditional Shaker tune, "Simple Gifts." If it says "simple" in the title, and "simple" is not only the sentiment behind the music but the moral theme of the music and of the religious sect behind its creation, then don't muss it up with layers of a confused cacophony of jumbled riffs and jamming solos. Perhaps the masses were wowed by (or at least respectful of) the two big-name players, but the piece was a travesty. This frazzled, bipolar chamber ditty, I am sure, left Williams fans wondering what it was and left classical aficionados groaning.

The Oath: It's written in the Constitution, but the phrasing (and pauses) are not. Barack jumped the gun, and Roberts took the blame. Even presidents and men in robes are only human, and we got our first reminder of this sad fact two seconds into the oath. Perhaps it's funny now. I hope Leno, Letterman, Steward and SNL can do something with this. I figure we're in for a redo. (But FYI, the O'Man still became president precisely at noon, somewhere toward the end of that mishmash of a musical number, even without the oath.)

The Address: I know he's got the job now, a grave and daunting task, but hey, this guy inspired us with some of the greatest political speeches in years. Why drag us through a short draft of a State of the Union address? Go for the rafters! This is your day. It's not a news day. Give the grim realities a rest, and shoot for the stars. And it doesn't hurt, now that the world is watching, to repeat a dozen of your best lines from the four best speeches you ever gave: your 2004 Democratic Convention speech, your February 2007 campaign announcement speech, your March 2008 Philadelphia speech on race, your 2008 Convention speech and, perhaps best of all, your acceptance speech in Chicago, that electric evening of November 4th.

We might need a serious and supremely aware and capable and tirelessly hard-working president, but to keep our hopes fired up and ready to go, we need more jolts of electricity, and today would have been a good day to make our hair stand on end.

The woman who spoke after the Address: Uh oh. Even with a speech on his B-list, Obama is a hard act to follow, but this was drivel. Poetry, Elizabeth? It didn't sound like poetry. It sounded like a mom at a PTA meeting. Most of the people in the room I was in turned away and stopped watching.

Joseph E. Lowery's Benediction: Could they have chosen a better guy for the job? I say no. He gave us the cadences and the rhyme we were craving by then. Those amens worked for me. Hear, hear!

And Diane: Good job. Your brevity was almost startling in the midst of some of these errant rambles.

Strangest scene: An ex-president's departure aboard Marine One has never seemed so startling. Everyone else could wind down and enjoy the party, but not the ex. Just an hour out of office, Bush was banished, it's as if he was not just going to Texas but was going into exile. The chopper made a slow, sad pass around the capitol, and that was that.

Okay, America, no more pleas for fealty or forgiveness. President says, "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America." So keep the cannons at bay, and let's come down off this mountain top and get to work. It's time we turned those tanks into tractors.


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