Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And So It Begins

Incredibly, I have now hit the wall on Inauguration coverage on TV and the internet, so I can only imagine how normal people must feel about it by now. I really don't think I can watch another dance at another Ball tonight, so it is clearly time to call it a day.

But what a wonderful day to have witnessed. I have struggled to devise some fitting words to sum up the meaning and impact of this day, but haven't come up with anything even remotely near the mark. But the following comes closer than anything I have seen to meeting that purpose, and this is what I want to say:

[He] is here not only to sweeten the air...but to clear the infected atmosphere of American history itself, tainted with official sins and inherited guilt. He would cleanse the Constitution...[h]e altered the document from within, by appeal from its letter to its spirit, subtly changing the recalcitrant stuff of that legal compromise, bringing it to its own indictment. By implicitly doing this, he performed one of the most daring acts of open-air sleight-of-hand ever witnessed by the unsuspecting. Every one in that vast throng...departed with a new thing in [their] ideological luggage, that new Constitution [he] had substituted for the one they had brought there with them. They walked off...under a changed sky, into a different America.

~ Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg

Today was a wonderful day. There will, alas, be days to come that are terrible, and some that will be unbearable. The world is not perfected by virtue of this day. But it is different. It is better. And under this changed sky, in this different America, we will draw strength from our common purpose. And we will prevail.

A Much-Needed Upgrade




This cracks me up - it reminds me of those "Hello, I'm a Mac" ads.

Obama's First Official Act

After escorting the Bushes from the Capitol, Barack Obama has completed his first official act, signing a Presidential Proclamation of National Renewal. And the quote from President Obama as he held the pen in his left hand and signed the document:

"I'm a lefty. Get used to it."

Spoken with a wry smile. YES!

Pandarus' Final Bow

Text message from the Inaugural Committee:

"Barack Obama is now the 44th President of the United States. Please stay & watch the parade on the jumbotrons. Encourage your neighbors to exit the Mall slowly."

And speaking of exits, President Obama is escorting Mr. and Mrs. Bush from the Capitol to the helicopter which will take them to Andrews Air Force Base and a plane waiting to carry them back to Texas. As George Bush departs the scene, I am forcefully reminded of these lines:

What verse for it? What instance for it? Let me see:

"Full merrily the humblebee doth sing
Till he hath lost his honey and his sting,
And being once subdued in armed tale,
Sweet honey and sweet notes together fail."

As many be here of Pander's hall, Your eyes half out, weep out at Pander's fall. Or if you cannot weep, yet give some groans,
Though not for me, yet for your aching bones...Till then I'll sweat, and seek about for eases,
And at that time bequeath you my diseases.

~ William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act V, Scene X

The Inaugural Address

After Chief Justice Roberts blundered his way through administering the Oath of Office, President Obama rises to speak.

Here's the part about challenge I expected at the outset: war, economic crisis, healthcare, failing schools, dependence on foreign energy, climate change.

And then comes hope over fear. "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of rebuilding America." "The stale political arguments of the past no longer apply." "As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

And too many other priceless lines to transcribe here. A great speech, and a good beginning to the Obama administration. This president is up to the challenge. And so are we.

Yes, we can.

President Barack Obama

(The countdown is officially retired!)

Barack Obama has just been sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. From head to toe, I am a solid mass of goose bumps.

Vice President Joe Biden

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 0

Joe Biden has just been sworn in as Vice President of the United States. As a Biden precinct captain during the campaign here in Iowa, I could not be more proud to know this man and to have supported him.

What a great day!

Almost Time

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 0

Almost everyone has taken their place on the rostrum now; Michelle Obama and Jill Biden are making their way to their seats, and President Bush is walking through the halls of the Capitol to the witness the swearing in. Interesting to see Vice President Cheney in a wheelchair...

The President-elect will arrive shortly!

Expectations for Obama's Inaugural Address

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 0

With his renowned gift of oratory, the expectations for Obama's inaugural address couldn't be higher, with most commentators expecting a combination of Jefferson's second inaugural, Lincoln's second inaugural, FDR's first, and JFK's inaugural all rolled into one.

No pressure.

Expect some astounding oratory, to be sure. But rather than get weedy about policy specifics, I think Obama's speech will endeavor to capture the essence of this day and its meaning for the country. Look for him to start out describing the challenges faced by the country at this moment, and work his way up to a thunderous conclusion about the ability of Americans to overcome any obstacle so long as they unite in common purpose.

The specifics will come during the State of the Union in a couple weeks' time.

The Senate Takes Its Place

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 0

The members of the Senate are now taking their seats in the stands on the West Front of the Capitol. Favorite moment so far: the entry of Iowa's own Chuck Grassly, holding aloft a video camera to preserve the moment.

Obama is on is way, and will arrive at the Capitol shortly. Wouldn't you know he's the only guy in Washington today not coping with traffic gridlock?

Notes from Abroad

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 0

A dear friend from Canada just sent me the following note:

Happy Emancipation Day!!! I am sure no one is happier than you...Congratulations

And to everyone around the world expressing more or less the same sentiment to their friends all across America, we say thank you. The America you, and we, remember is reborn this day.

About the Countdown

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 0

As long-time readers of this page (both of you) will know, every post has begun with a countdown of George W. Bush's remaining days as president. When I put up iPol's first post, the count stood at 736. Today it is, finally, blessedly, at ZERO.

So what becomes of the countdown now? Glad you asked. I'll maintain the countdown in posts today up to Obama's swearing-in. And then the countdown will be retired.

And that is a very, very good thing.

Couchblogging the Inauguration

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 0

It is (finally) Inauguration Day! I'm not in D.C. this morning (and don't you think I didn't try!), so I'll be blogging about the day from my couch. And if you're wondering what's the point about blogging about an event that anybody can see on a television screen, all I can say is that puts me about even with 90% of the people on and around the Mall this morning. Except that I'm sitting by a cozy fire with a nice cup of tea.

At the moment, the Obamas and the Bidens are in the White House having coffee with the Bushes. The Mall is already full to capacity, many Metro stations around the Mall and Capitol Hill are closed due to overcrowding, and the Inaugural Committee has sent the following text message:

Inauguration Update: If you are still in transit to the Mall, we suggest you head west of 14th Street.

14th Street would put you a long, long way from the West Front of the Capitol, by the way.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On Inauguration Eve

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 1

Just a quck post tonight to note 3 things:
2) I'll be blogging on the Inauguration throughout the day tomorrow.
3) How big a day is tomorrow in the public mind? Well, this should tell you something: my wife's 86 year-old mother's church is cancelling its weekly Bible study so everyone (who are mostly octogenarians, as well) can watch the inauguration without interruption.

BTW, did I mention that today is Bush's last day as president? *happy dance*

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Farewell Speech Bush Should Have Given

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 2

George W. Bush gave his farewell speech last Thursday night. In many ways, it was the predictably clueless utterance of a president still incapable of recognizing his shortcomings and those of his administration, and unrepentant about the cost to the country and the world of his eight years in office.

So, since George W. Bush was unwilling or unable to candidly address his legacy, I have taken it upon myself to draft the speech he should have made last week. This is the speech he owed us.

Fellow Americans, and fellow citizens of the world, tonight I stand before you for the last time as President of the United States. The eight years of my administration have been turbulent, and many have wondered whether my untroubled demeanor during my time in office has demonstrated the calm certainty of one who has the courage of his convictions, or the delusional numbness of an incurious and epically untalented leader isolated within the confines of a political and psychological bubble. 

History will render its verdict, of course. And it is to aid that final judgment that I stand before all of you tonight to tell you that in so many of the areas where I believed myself to be right, and where all of those around me whom I trusted assured me I was right, I must now, finally, acknowledge that I have been wrong. With distressing frequency, I have been fatally and disastrously wrong.

I came into office in 2000, of course, not as the result of victory at the polls, but rather at the fiat of an impetuous and misguided Supreme Court. Rather than acknowledging the trauma which the manner of my taking office inflicted upon our political institutions and civil society and endeavoring to heal those rifts, I unleashed a political operation from within the White House to fracture our country to the greatest extent possible, playing each side against every other side, knowing that the resulting tumult would leave me the freer to act as I would, regardless of the opinion of the majority. Indeed, the thinking went, when voters are split into microcosms of narrow interests, there is no majority. That was our strategy, and in the early years of my term, it worked only too well. 

Our strategy worked so well, in fact, that I was able to squander a trillion dollar surplus with a tax giveaway to the wealthy like none other the world had ever seen. I was able to shred years of patient and skillful diplomacy that led the world tantalizingly near to a serious consensus to arrest the causes and begin to reverse the effects of global warming. I rolled up and discarded regulatory protections that for more than a half century had safeguarded our economy from the excesses that had too often in the past resulted in boom and bust cycles in which the benefits accrued to the wealthy in good times, and the pain in bad times piled upon the shoulders of the poor and the middle class. 

And then came the attack against our homeland on September 11, 2001. To their everlasting credit, the American people, even in the midst of the horror and loss of that terrible day, overcame the petty and the transient, and united as one people in their resolve to triumph in the face of an unprovoked and dastardly attack. And inspired by the unity and resolve of our people, people all across the world united with us. It was an historic moment of courage and determination across the globe.

With the people united behind us, we took the fight to al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, vowing to never rest until justice had been visited upon those who carried out and aided the attacks against us. But at the very moment we had al-Qaeda’s senior leadership cornered in the caves of Tora Bora, at the very moment when the justice we had vowed was about to be achieved, I, as Commander in Chief, shifted the focus of our armed forces away from the crucial fight in Afghanistan and directed them to begin preparations for war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. 

Our victory over Saddam’s military was swift, and seemed to confirm the rightness of my decision to liberate Iraq. But I cannot deny the disappointment I experienced when it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction, the lynchpin of my decision to invade, found in Iraq. Many of my advisors assured me that these weapons were in Iraq, and were being aggressively stockpiled by Saddam Hussein. But there were others who cautioned that this might not have been the case, and the fact that they were not heeded, and, indeed, often suffered professional retribution for expressing their view, highlights the fact that my administration, my advisors, and ultimately, I myself, were too hasty in beginning a war that to this day has eluded my ability to honorably end.

The subsequent occupation of Iraq and the chaos and suffering it has brought to the people of that long-oppressed land has been a bitter disappointment to many, and to myself most of all. The men and women of our armed forces have always performed honorably and heroically in executing the mission I, as their Commander in Chief, ordered them to perform. The mismanagement of the occupation, the introduction of al-Qeada into Iraq when it had never been there prior to the invasion, the deprivation and violence experienced by the people of Iraq, the atrocities perpetrated at Abu Ghraib, were the result of no failure on the part of our armed forces, but rather, were the result of failure by senior officials of my administration, and, most of all, by myself, and I take full responsibility for those decisions and their consequences. The burden and blame are mine alone.

And as we struggled to contain crises abroad, we were struck once more by tragedy at home, this time not perpetrated by foreign terrorists, but by Hurricane Katrina. As the storm approached our shores and warnings of the potential for destruction began to be raised, my administration did not fulfill its obligation to protect the people who lay in Katrina’s path. Even as Katrina made landfall and the true scale of the devastation became apparent, the actions of my administration were, again and again, inadequate, belated, and, far too often, just too poorly executed to render the help that the people of the Gulf Coast so badly needed. Once again, these failures were ultimately mine, and, once again, the consequences were ultimately born by others.

The same can also be said of our current economic situation. In my administration’s desire to make good on its promise to reduce the role of government in the lives of the American people, we paid too much heed to the voice of Wall Street, and too little to the voice of Main Street. We cast aside the oversight required to prevent our financial markets from the excesses that, as I speak to you tonight, have brought them to their lowest pass since the 1930s. In doing so, we failed not only Main Street, but also the very Wall Street players we sought to help. The result and the ruin of that decision, the cost in lost jobs and bankrupt companies, lay all around us tonight.

And so it is that, as I leave office in a few days time, our country finds itself with two unfinished wars, the city of New Orleans still stricken years after Katrina made landfall, and our economy in tatters. The solution to all these problems will be left to my successor, and sincerely I wish him well in dealing with them. I have only this council to offer, the lesson I have learned too late as I reflect upon my term of office: all the American people have ever asked of their leaders in times of crisis is the assurance that the work of government will be done competently and impartially, and that the hard work and sacrifice of our people to meet the challenge of the day will not be squandered. 

I have failed the American people in this, and hope and pray that my successor will be able to overcome the staggering challenges he faces as he assumes office. For all of this, to all of you, across our country and in nations around the world, I am so sorry. I am so very, very sorry.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The View From Now

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 4

So, the day after President Bush gave his farewell address to the nation, how is the public reacting? Getting a bit mushy to see him limp off the stage, perhaps?

Not a bit of it. According to a new poll reported in the New York Times today, George W. Bush's current approval numbers are as low as they have ever been, with just 22% approving of his performance as president. Contrast this with Reagan and Clinton, who both left office with 68% approval numbers, or Bush's father, who went out with 54%, or even - and this has got to be just killing the neocons - Jimmy Carter, who left office with 44% approving of his performance.

Worse still, it seems that public disapproval of the president isn't limited to his performance in office; folks don't seem to care much for the president personally, either. According to the poll, Bush's negatives are at 60%, while his positives clock in only around the mid 20's.

Little wonder, then, that the president and his staff are pinning their hopes for redemption on the long view of history. Indeed, that's the only hope left them. But the degree to which attempts at shaping the judgment of history have gone more than a little over the top is perhaps the best indication that even the true believers are having a hard time convincing themselves, let alone history. A vivid case in point: a recent article in CQ Politics by Richard Connor postulates that history may one day look upon George W. Bush in the same light as Abraham Lincoln. Er, okay. And Ed Wood may one day be voted the greatest motion picture director of all time. But I wouldn't wait up nights.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 5

Minus 18 Fahrenheit. That was the temperature when I left for work this morning. Add in a stiff breeze, and it felt like 37 below zero.


I have seen conservative blogs cite temperatures like these as the complete and unarguable refutation of the reality of global warming. Hogwash. I'm not about to conclude that climate change is a myth based on a cold snap. No, I am convinced that global warming is real. But I must confess that on days like today I am just ever so slightly inclined to think of it as our friend.

Friday, January 9, 2009

(Now) Its (Really) Official

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 11

A joint session of Congress met yesterday to count and certify the votes cast by the electoral college for the 2008 presidential election. No surprise in the result: 365 votes for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, 173 for John McCain and Sarah Palin. The outcome now clears the last requirement for Barack Obama to take the oath of office on January 20.

I wish I could have been in the capitol to witness things yesterday. Not only would it have been uniquely historic to watch the electoral college tally entered in the journals of the House and Senate, but it also would have been great fun to watch Vice President Dick Cheney convene the session pursuant to the pesky Constitution and the laws of the United States. I bet you could almost see him gritting his teeth as he had to do it.

Just eleven more days. Wonderful!

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