Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Marshmallows, rocky road and cookies

That was the sort of thing we enjoyed at our Obama party in Newbury, organised yesterday, to coincide with the inauguration, by local Obamaniac Chris Day. Rocky Road won the popularity stakes. (I was pleased with this as I snapped them up at M&S on my way to the party.) And it ought to be said that someone had taken the trouble to put Obama's campaign emblem on the cookies in coloured icing.

The whole occasion was electrifying. I could feel that - even in semi-rural Berkshire.

What I found remarkable was that, after all the run-up, the swearing in was all over in a few seconds. Never has "So help me God" evoked such a tidal wave of relief. "Congratulations, Mr President" Wow! Ding dong the Bush is dead. A new era brought about in a few seconds with a slightly dodgy swearing-in.

Aretha Franklin? What is she like? I don't deny she was one of the two or three singers who deserved to be on that stage. But could anyone understand a word of what she was singing? It all seemed a bit odd. I wonder how many people thought she was singing the British national anthem. (It's the same tune.)

Cheney in a wheelchair? How emblematic was that? He shot himself in the foot, presumably. Mark Cole put his finger on it: Dr Strangelove without the humour.

I thought Obama made a remarkable inauguration speech. It was extremely sure-footed and had several very soaring passages. What a sense of history the guy has!

Above all, it was impeccably delivered. I am of the belief that Obama could read out the New York phone directory and make it sound like an historic mould-breaking speech. (I also believe that Rod Stewart could sing the New York phone directory and sound like an angel, but I digress).

One aspect which struck me was that Obama really laid into Bush and thereby marked a very clear break indeed with the last administration. To a large extent, the speech restored some of the world’s faith in the fairness and justice of the USA.

A few people said that the speech had no memorable "Ask not..." or "Fear itself.." phrase. I disagree. Both those phrases emerged as famous well after the original speeches. There were plenty of poetic and powerful phrases in the Obama speech. I expect an historic keynote phrase to emerge in good time.

Bush's face was a picture. I remember seeing his face as he waited to swear in during the 2001 inauguration. He looked like the cat who had swallowed the cream. He was clearly looking at Gore/Clinton with a "I beat you - so there!" grin on his face. So, after eight disastrous years, it is not gratifying to report that yesterday he looked like he'd lost a dollar and found a cent. He was not pleased. He looked a bit bitter, it would not be an exaggeration to say.

I was rather intrigued by the media coverage of the inauguration and its run-up, compared to the campaign coverage. Yesterday it was 99% "I never thought I would see an African American President.". During the campaign, that played about 5% a part of the coverage. For example, when Obama won the Iowa primary, how much of the coverage was people saying "I never thought I'd see a African American winning the Iowa primary"? Not much.

Surely the point is that race did not play a big part of the campaign because Obama's appeal is aracial. He straddles the cultures.

I would have preferred to see a little bit more of the coverage centering on the fact that, after eight years, the USA finally has a President with a brain.

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