With the benefit of a few days to recuperate and reflect, some thoughts about the Inauguration and the days since:
1. It’s hard to fault an event with as much good feeling as this one. Everyone smiled, talked to strangers on elevators, on the street, in the subway. Given the inherent instability of almost two million people, the police and military were polite to a fault. The enduring memory is of thousands of spirits, marching westward at 5:30am, smiling with the promise of delivery.
Short of a tourist falling in the Potomac on Sunday night, there were no incidents. Like Woodstock without the bad acid.
2. Most moving were the thousands of families on the Mall Sunday and Monday, introducing their children to a nation to which they had suddenly gained access. Not only African-Americans, but men and women of every color and from all over the world. This was their Inaugural, too; as Obama has been saying all along, this whole thing is less about me than it is about you.
3. When I lost it. Aretha singing ‘America.’ I will defer to my elders, but she’s a lot more than the Sophie Tucker of our generation. Reverend Franklin’s daughter, the greatest vocalist of our era. A video that captures the moment:
4. Even Obama’s off-key speech couldn’t deflate the crowd. Yes it showed strength and it turned the page (in a not very generous way, even considering Dick Cheney’s Mr. Potter imitation). I’m no big fan of Paul Krugman but his NYT editorial strikes me as correct. Lots of bromide, not much vision.
5. The Administration is off to a fast start, despite the White House’s Atari computer infrastructure. But the stimulus package has already become the victim of political sausage-making. As of today, more than a third of the House package is tax cuts (appropriately so), with less than 20% for investments in infrastructure. The rest? Bailing out the states, in particular their healthcare and education systems. Important, but the sum total is less than what the package could have been. Everyone and their brother is getting their oar in the water; this may be the last time there’ll be real money for the foreseeable future. The concept of shovel-ready projects has elbowed out real infrastructure investment (rebuild the power grid, invest in bandwidth, rebuild roads and bridges, etc.), as evidenced by the sewer projects and environmental initiatives left on the cutting room floor.
One hopes for Senate leadership in the days to come.