Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hail to the chief

Barack Hussein Obama is now the President of the United States. His supporters are ecstatic; many of his detractors seem willing to give him a chance; and people around the world are cheering, crying, hoping. Is it possible for this single person to do all that is now expected of him?

We'll know those answers only in time. For now, let us offer a few comments on today's festivities:

***Chief Justice John Roberts screwed up the oath of office as he was administering it to the 44th president. How could that happen? I've known the presidential oath by heart since I was a teenager (OK...I am a geek like that), but Roberts muffed it when the whole world is watching. I find him in contempt!

***The inaugural speech, I thought, was good, though at moments like this, one hopes for better than good. It is doubtful that Lincoln's soaring and poignant rhetoric will ever be matched, but FDR and JFK are the high-water marks of the modern era and I don't think Obama delivered any lines as memorable as "...fear itself" or "Ask not..." He did, however, offer better remarks in his first 20 minutes on the job than his predecessor did in eight years.

***Obama specifically referenced atheists in his address ("We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers."), which is a small, but wonderful nod to the fact that a significant portion of the country's citizenry (10% to 15%) does not believe in a supreme being. That kind of inclusion and tolerance is not only nice to see, but appropriate and necessary.

***Controversial Evangelical pastor Rick Warren, who delivered the invocation, said a few good things, but he ended with specific references to Jesus Christ and by reciting the "Our Father," two clearly Christian touchstones at a moment when non-denominational prayers are usually offered. He also mentioned the Obama girls' names in a creepy way.

***The inaugural poem, recited by Elizabeth Alexander, seemed unremarkable at first, but after reading it again I like it.

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