President Obama

Was just chatting with Hassan and at one point he said “the President” in reference to George W. Bush, then quickly corrected himself, “I mean, the former President.”  And then we both laughed and took a moment to enjoy the fact that the meaning of the words “the President” had completely changed in the past few days.

Many many of my friends went down to D.C. for the inauguration this week, and a big part of me wanted to go with them, but an apparently larger part of me thought that a few million people on the Mall sounded like Times Square on New Year’s Eve times a factor of 23, and that was not something that enticed me.  Instead my Mom came up from Jersey, and we watched the speech and everything together, which was a memorable experience in its own way.

I think my favorite parts of the inaugural speech were…

(1) Using Corinthians to take a subtle stab at George Bush’s extreme partisan politics.

(2) Reframing the “big government” issue as an issue of effectiveness instead of size, with such skill that it almost seemed to put an end to the debate.

(3) The part where he speaks directly to the Muslim world:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

That last part indicates a sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of many Muslim countries, of the discontent people feel toward secular dictators who villify the U.S. and other Western countries as a distraction from devastated economies and a total failure of government to deliver much of anything to the people. (This is not to say that there are no legitimate grievances against the West, just that those grievances don’t justify dictators doing dictator-type things.)  In any case, those few lines made me feel that we are headed toward a much wiser and saner policy toward the Muslim world.

The expectations set before Obama are pretty over the top, and at some point the high is going to wear off, but I have to say that closing secret prisons and banning torture is a pretty good start.  (Very sad that we had to start with those things at all in a democratic country, but that’s where these last eight years took us.)

On a final entertaining note, Rush Limbaugh was on Hannity last night (I didn’t watch, just saw the transcript), and he seemed quite disturbed with the new status quo:

We’re a country comprised of human beings that the Democrat Party and the left have attempted to arrange into groups of victims, and that’s who he appeals to, and the victims are the people waiting around for some grievance to be resolved.

They’re waiting around for something to happen for them, and he is parlaying that. I think the fact that he’s African-American, his father was black, to me it’s irrelevant. …

I am hearing many Republicans say … well, we want him to succeed — and prominent Republicans. … they have laid down. They have totally — they’re drinking the Kool- Aid, too. They have no guts to stand up for what their beliefs are because they’re afraid of criticism, they’re afraid of being called racists….

First, for someone who thinks it’s irrelevant that Obama is Black, Limbaugh certainly mentions it quite a bit.  Second, I’ve been observing Republicans for some time now, and they generally don’t seem reluctant to insult Black Democrats for fear of being called racists – I can think of quite a good number of counterexamples, actually.  If many prominent Republicans are saying they hope Obama will succeed, I think it might be because it sounds a bit bad to say you hope our President will fail to improve our economy or make our nation secure and the like.  Oh, also, I have a feeling it might have something to do with this.

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