Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My thoughts on the inauguration

Today is a historical day. This we all know. I am a bit amazed at the millions of people who traveled to Washington and braved sub-freezing weather to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama. I can understand how African-Americans would want to be a part of such a big step toward racial equality. But there are so many others there also. There are also so many more who did not go, but were too excited even to sleep last night.

I understand their excitement, but I don't share it. There will be big changes, for the good, some immediate. But there will also be disappointments, especially for those anticipating huge, quick changes on everything that President Obama campaigned on. The economy is a mess, and I think it will be the focus of his first weeks. Other areas will be touched, especially ones that can easily be handled by executive order, but some will be put on the back burner. Guantanamo (the prison, not the whole base) can be closed. The process of getting out of Iraq can be started. But the repeals of Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA will wait. Health care will wait. A little can be done about global warming right now, but mostly it will wait.

Again, there will be disappointments. No president ever gets everything he wants. The Republicans in the Senate still have enormous power to throw up roadblocks, and I doubt they will refrain from using it, despite the enormity of the economic disaster the country is facing. They don't understand what got us into this mess, or how to get us out of it. Some of them may look at the polls that are so supportive of the president and temper their opposition, but plenty will just ignore them.

I was, to be honest, a bit disappointed in the inaugural address. It was good, but not great. There were no great lines, there was no "Ask not," maybe nothing that will make the quote books. There were certainly no surprises. Obama effectively made his points, basically repeating his campaign positions, but without any rhetoric that will make the speech memorable. I'm sure former-president Bush (smile, smile) was quite uncomfortable at parts of it (assuming he was even listening). I think even former-president Clinton may even have heard a veiled criticism or two.

History has been made. The celebrations continue. But I can only be hopeful that President Obama is successful in acheiving his program.

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