January
20th 2009
Inauguration Day 2009

Posted under: American history

Liveblogging the Inauguration–all times MDT:

9:28 a.m:  Brian Williams is a font of misinformation.  Earlier he reminded people of something that never happened in 2001, the so-called vandalism of the White House by departing Clinton staffers.  Then as Lynne Cheney arrived, he said that she was a “historian in her own right.”  Yeah, Brian:  and you’re just a super anchorman.  (Paging Ron Burgundy!)

9:33 a.m.:  Just got a good look at Michelle Obama’s outfit.  Do. Not. Want.  Too much stiff brocade.  But, it’s very retro and Jacqueline Kennedy-esque.  Maybe it’s just the coat I’m reacting to–the dress underneath looks like it might be promising.

9:40 a.m.:  Awesome views of the mall, jam-packed with people.

9:43 a.m.:  The man of the hour arrives.

9:47 a.m.:  The presidency is famously aging.  I never thought George W. Bush took it nearly as seriously as he should have, and he always seems to have gotten 8 hours of sleep.  But–he has aged dramatically too, like his predecessors.

9:48 a.m.:  The smarmy Rick Warren:  a neutral prayer.  “We are Americans. . . united . . . to (sic) our commitment to freedom and justice for all.”  (Except the gays.)  Rings the Jesus bell before launching into the Our Father/Lord’s Prayer.  (Hey–Historiann is ecumenical, even if Warren is not!)

9:53 a.m.:  Aretha Franklin!

9:57 a.m.:  Joe Biden takes the oath of office.  See ya, Dick Cheney.

10:05:  Barack Obama takes the oath of office.  Exhale!  How sweet that William Rehnquist died before he could administer the oath of office once again.  (Except that unfortunately, Obama doesn’t get to make his replacement appointment!)  John Roberts flubs the oath.

10:06 a.m.:  Obama takes the podium to deliver his inaugural address.  Pretty predictable.  “Choose our better history”–I just don’t like or get that line.  Nice nods to the ancestors–an echo of African American preaching throughout.

10:13 a.m.:  “Begin again the work of remaking America.”  Infrastructure improvements, return to science, clean green energy, “transform our schools and colleges and universities?” 

10:14 a.m.:  Does government work?  That’s the only test.  All about restoring “the vital trust between the people and their government.”  “Without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control.”  The market must extend prosperity to all.  The common defense?  A false choice between safety and “our ideals.” 

10:17 a.m.:  “Know that America is a friend to each nation. . . we are ready to lead once more.” 

10:19 a.m.:  “Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.”  “America must play its role in ushering in a new world of peace.” 

10:21 a.m.:  “The spirit of service”–is this a Qwest ad?  Honesty, hard work, courage, fair play, tolerance, curiosity, patriotism–”the quiet force of progress throughout our history. . . a new era of responsibility.”  “This is the price and the promise of citizenship.”

10:24 a.m.:  Valley Forge mythology!  “In this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words.”  “We carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it to future generations.”  That’s it–18 minutes.

My instant review?  Kind of a slice-and-dice of his stump speech.  Average content, well delivered.  The Valley Forge comparison was a bit overly dramatic.  I don’t think there were any extremely memorable lines, but that’s something that can only be assessed in light of his performance on the job these next few years.  I wish he had gone for a Gettysburg Address-like length, with just a concise statement of principles that will guide his government.  But, that might have disappointed the crowd who stood out all night long!

What do you all think?

30 Comments »

30 Responses to “Inauguration Day 2009”

  1. cgeye on 20 Jan 2009 at 11:42 am #

    I’m just going to point out that Rev. Lowery quoted the Black National Anthem in his prayer, prior to the National Anthem being played. Hmmm.

  2. Notorious Ph.D. on 20 Jan 2009 at 11:53 am #

    My favorite moment came as people were lining up to file out, when Tom Brokaw noted Dick Cheney in a wheelchair, and remarked that tomorrow, “some people” will be remarking on the parallels to Dr. Strangelove.

  3. Historiann on 20 Jan 2009 at 11:56 am #

    Wow–I can’t believe I missed those two moments, cgeye and Notorious! I had to go do laundry, so I wasn’t paying full attention. The items you caught are so much more entertaining than anything I saw!

  4. K.N. on 20 Jan 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    Memo to John Roberts re: what it means to ADMINISTER the oath of office:

    Your role there is to read the words of the oath so that the President DOESN’T have to read them. All is for naught if you try to show off by memorizing the words only the flub them up. And it isn’t merely an academic point–the Presidential oath is the only material in quotes in the entire Constitution.

    I also missed the Strangelove line–brilliant. But the media line of the day, in my mind, goes to Gene Robinson of the WashPost. When Chris Matthews, watching Obama sign the nomination papers for his cabinet, noted that the picture included an African-American President, an Irish-Catholic VP, an Italian-American Roman Catholic female Speaker of the House, and a Mormon Senate Leader, Robinson called it “a scene that would give the Founders the vapors.”

  5. Profane on 20 Jan 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    Although I hesitate to trust the NYT on much anymore, the following appears to be a fair account of the vandalism ‘that never happened’:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CEFDE163CF931A25755C0A9649C8B63&scp=1&sq=white%20house%20vandalized%20in%20transition&st=cse

  6. Indyanna on 20 Jan 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    I’d have to check the transcript, but I was hearing a Washington Crossing allusion rather than a Valley Forge one. Bitter winter, camped by a frozen river (could have been either one so far), but I thought I heard a “decision to cross” reference. It was a pretty noisy room I was in. Either way, Pennsylvania will take the sacred ground cred. Since I let my American Revolution class out twenty minutes early to hear all this, I was appreciating the backup from the pedagogue-in-chief!

    Kennedy and Byrd both going down in the first hour. Not great on the augury front, but since we’re not Romans, I guess we can let that ride a while. What the hell happened to Cheney, anyway? All I got was an allusion to a “back injury” yesterday. My favorite part was at 12:01 p.m. ET when they announced that Obama was already president, even though the oath had not been administered.

    Doesn’t Roberts bat out eighteen page memoranda to his clerks on the intersection between modern patent law and medieval admiralty practice while rushing to de-robe and get to the court’s squash courts? What was THAT about?

  7. John F. on 20 Jan 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    Yes, I think Indyanna is right here. It was a Washington’s Crossing reference.

    I heard a lot of civic humanism in this address.

  8. Historiann on 20 Jan 2009 at 3:32 pm #

    Thanks for the correction, Profane, but here’s the key graph:

    “The accounting office said similar pranks were reported in prior transitions, including the one from Mr. Bush’s father to Mr. Clinton in 1993. ”We were unable to conclude,” it said, ”whether the 2001 transition was worse than previous ones.” ”

    Those horrible horrible Clintons!

    And Indyanna–here’s the key graph in the speech:

    “So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: ‘Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].’”

    The quotation at the end are from Tom Paine’s _The Crisis, I_ (1776). I guess I focused on the old saw that the “snow was stained with blood” and “the capital abandoned.” It was taken by Howe after the Battle of Brandywine in 1777, right? Washington retreated to VF that fall, no? You’re the capo di tutti capi on VF, my friend, so I’ll defer to your judgment. It sounds like it was a mash-up of the midnight river crossing to attack Trenton and the VF winter the following year.

  9. Clio Bluestocking on 20 Jan 2009 at 3:33 pm #

    It was as cold as at Valley Forge, that’s for darn sure!

  10. Historiann on 20 Jan 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    Were you there, Clio B.?

    The attack on Trenton was hardly a shining moment in the history of the American Revolution. Some would say it was rather ignoble. It was more of a PR victory that helped washington raise another army in the spring of 1777. I don’t understand the wisdom of evoking a PR victory–especially given the ignominious defeats of Washington’s army in the summer and fall of 1777!

  11. Roxie on 20 Jan 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    I’ve heard at least 3 other talking heads dredge up the keyboard story, and it absolutely infuriates me. Even as Senator Clinton prepares to serve the nation as secretary of state, the media feel entitled — and apparently compelled — to re-circulate long-discredited myths about her, her family, and her husband’s administration. Why don’t these morons just stfu and let viewers enjoy the spectacle? It’d be a good show if they would stay the heck out of it.

  12. Knitting Clio on 20 Jan 2009 at 4:57 pm #

    I actually liked Michelle’s dress and coat ensemble. The color would never work for me but looks fab-u-lous on her.

  13. Historiann on 20 Jan 2009 at 5:04 pm #

    Agreed on the color on MO, KC: it looks great against rich, brown or olive skin, but pasty gals like us would look ghoulish in it!

  14. undine on 20 Jan 2009 at 5:38 pm #

    When I heard Joe Biden take the vp oath, I couldn’t believe that Dick Cheney had taken it twice without a thunderbolt being hurled from above and striking him on the spot.

  15. hysperia on 20 Jan 2009 at 5:54 pm #

    While watching and listening as John Roberts completely blew the oath of office (I honestly think he should have started over) I wondered if there will be wingnuts in the courts soon, arguing that Obama isn’t REALLY the President because he didn’t REALLY get sworn in. Just as he’s not an American because he was born in Kenya.

  16. hysperia on 20 Jan 2009 at 6:42 pm #

    Just read this at a New York Times blog:

    “People will argue about what the failure to utter the words in the precise order required by the Constitution means. But it will be an academic argument. It is not clear who would have standing to raise the argument that Mr. Obama had not become president as a consequence, and it is hard to believe that any court – or other body – would want to adjudicate the question.”

    Oh I bet there’s somebody who can raise the question.

    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/i-do-solemnly-swear/?hp

  17. Indyanna on 20 Jan 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    I think you’re right on the mash-up part, Historiann, but on balance, it tipped toward Trenton. (But, what the heck, inaugural speeches aren’t for dueling footnotes on historical details, right?). Congress bailed out on Philadelphia in December, 1776, before it became evident that the capital would not be attacked. (Indeed, it wouldn’t have been seized even if Washington had not done Trenton). They went to Baltimore for a while and came back I think in March, 1777. I was thrown off by the bloody snow part too. And I must have been just interpolating the “cross the river” part. So yeah, it was a kind of mash-up of revolutionary imagery.

    I was just glad he didn’t start beating on Pennsylvania after that roughhouse-scrum up here last April. Paine would have liked that one too! Paine was less eloquent on Valley Forge than on some other subjects. He swung through while the place was being built and likened the army (in a letter to Franklin, perhaps) to “a family of beavers…” But, back to more interesting subjects, like the dress, the keyboard, and of course the wingnuts!

  18. Sharon on 20 Jan 2009 at 7:25 pm #

    Actually, when Dick Cheney wheeled out, I saw Lionel Barrymore as the evil banker Potter, gleefully stealing Uncle Billy’s deposit.

  19. Historiann on 20 Jan 2009 at 7:32 pm #

    Thanks, Indyanna, for your further clarification. If any history professors showed the speech in their classes, it sounds like it might take another whole class period to sort out that Monster Mash of 1776-78!

    And Sharon–well observed. “Wheel me up a little closer!”

  20. Susan on 20 Jan 2009 at 7:33 pm #

    Well, as not a US historian, I didn’t go in for the details, but I thought it was a good but not great speech — he was trying to touch too many bases too fast.

    The high points were Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma et al., and Rev. Lowery. Oh, and watching GWB take off in the helicopter. I really started to weep as Lowery quoted James Weldon Johnson. And I did not hear anyone comment on the source. After Warren’s bland piety, it felt real.

  21. hysperia on 20 Jan 2009 at 7:55 pm #

    The conspiracy theorists are hard at work. From the “left”, some are saying that Roberts screwed up deliberately and from the right, that Obama choked when he had to say “faithfully”. A litte levity at the end of the day.

    http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/01/inauguration-thoughts.html

  22. hysperia on 20 Jan 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    It’s also noted that Roberts turned the “so help me God” part into a question. He said, “So help you God?”

  23. Bing on 20 Jan 2009 at 9:50 pm #

    I wanted to pistol whip Williams for that W thing.

    Did anyone else think that Cheney looked like Mr. Potter?

    HJ

  24. Fratguy on 20 Jan 2009 at 10:37 pm #

    Atrios did,

    http://www.eschatonblog.com/

  25. Satsuma on 21 Jan 2009 at 12:32 am #

    This was just the cutest little reporting yet on the day. Just kept laughing at all your asides… “See ya Dick Cheney…” Loved that line. :-)

  26. Knitting Clio on 21 Jan 2009 at 5:28 am #

    I’ve seen Cheney compared with Dr. Strangelove, somewhere, can’t remember exactly at the moment.

  27. prof bw on 21 Jan 2009 at 5:47 am #

    Kind of a slice-and-dice of his stump speech.

    ok, somehow I forgot to say that in my long rundown on the inauguration and yet that was both my and my partner’s immediate response. That and I may have asked for an oreo cookie and milk . . .

  28. Clio Bluestocking on 21 Jan 2009 at 8:15 am #

    Heck, yeah, I was there! Freezing and singing and booing and cheering and freezing. I couldn’t see a darn thing, but it was fabulous.

    Actually, during the speech, I first thought that going back to Washington was a slightly interesting twist given the Lincolnmania of the day. Then, I wanted to annotate the speech, like back when I was a document editor. “Ah, reference to Valley Forge.” “Reference to Better angels of our nature.” “Reference to Nothing to fear but fear itself.” “Reference to Ask not what your country can do for you.” Etc. etc. Much too self-conscious to be inspired.

    Still, yeah, a speech writer who knows history might not want to reference Washington’s performance during those years. I think Obama (or the speech writer) was trying to evoke a that mythical understanding of the oooh! the triumph of democracy and the People by the end of the Revolution. Blahblahblah.

  29. Historiann on 21 Jan 2009 at 9:14 am #

    Right on, Clio B and prof bw. Yet another reason to fire Jon Favreau! (Jon, we’re just not that into you.)

    The funny thing is that I was lectured on another blog for supporting one literature prof’s decision not to turn her class over to watching the inauguration. I was told that we should just “listen to the man” because it was “soulless” to watch his speech later on TiVo or on the web, and because nothing we could possibly be doing in class could ever match what Favreau/Obama has to teach us.

    Yeah, well, maybe not.

  30. prof bw on 21 Jan 2009 at 10:25 am #

    history will at least absolve thee . . . can’t say the same for some others out there Bush