The first day of the rest of our next four years
Never shying away from the epic, The Washington Post ran the headline “A Vast, Diverse, Sea of Humanity Celebrates the Dawn of an Era” in their inauguration section this morning. Having been swimming yesterday (luckily, without contracting hypothermia) I have to say that I was surprised at how smoothly the whole thing went. Unlike the metro, checkpoints weren’t clogged, and while I was pretty sure I was going to lose some toes by 12:05, it wasn’t terribly difficult to get in or out of the city.
In terms of the speech itself, while pundits have been panning it for its sobriety, I’d say Obama did a good job of sticking to his message and playing to the gravity of the moment. Coming out of a presidency more concerned with ideology than reality, I think anything more rhetorically ornate might have seemed a bit weak. Here’s an article from The Guardian about the man behind the speech itself — 27-year old John Favreau, who Obama inherited from the Kerry campaign almost on accident.
The Guardian on Favreau’s speech-writing process:
Favreau would be up most nights until 3am, honing the next day’s stump speeches in a caffeine haze of espressos and Red Bull energy drinks, taking breaks to play the video game Rock Band. He coined a phrase for this late-night deadline surfing: “crashing”.
He crashed his way through all Obama’s most memorable speeches. He wrote the draft of one that helped to turn Iowa for Obama while closeted in a coffee shop in Des Moines. For the presidential election, he wrote two speeches: one for a victory, one for defeat. When the result came through, he emailed his best friend: “Dude, we won. Oh my God.”
These are the jobs you just can’t find on Craigslist. Most of the commentary on the speech — well, from the late-night crowd at least — noted the parallels between Obama’s rhetoric and Bush’s. Jon Stewart put together a pretty scathing composite of the inaugural address with previous Bush speeches (hot phrases: “god-given freedom,” “way of life,” and “era of peace”) and called attention to the disagreeable similarities. Oh well. As The Daily Show‘s Jason Jones asked, “Why is cheese delicious on Italian food, but when you melt it on Chinese food, it’s disgusting?”
In spite of attending a record-breaking ten inaugural balls last night and holding the first official White House sleepover, Obama still managed to suspend legal proceedings at Guantanamo by 8 AM this morning, taking the initial steps to shut the facility down. Not bad for first hour on the job.
Finally, here’s a nifty little feature called “The Moment,” courtesy of CNN tech wizard John King. It’s a pastiche of over 11,000 photos compiled into a single searchable, zoomable imagine of the swearing-in. Frankly, it’s amazing, and it really makes you wonder what other kinds of security apparatuses were silently keeping an eye on that so-called sea of humanity.
Here’s Doonesbury on the cultural shift in D.C. since Obama’s election: