Archive for the ‘Barack Obama Inauguration’ Category

What an ordeal – twelve hours standing in Arctic temperatures amongst a mass of people half a mile away from the main event…lucky I was watching the inauguration on television in London. Actually it was at work and I only heard the swearing-in clearly live but that elicited a cheer in my office. The TV was on throughout the day with the sound down but the pictures I saw were awe-inspiring – the millions on the mall in such cold weather, like the election itself, signalled a renewal of democracy after years of waning public interest (although it might be an idea to have both election and inauguration at warmer times of the year – either that or make Orlando the capital – something for the kids). And of course it was impossible not to be moved by the historic nature of the swearing-in of the first African-American President, and the massive symbolism of the day, even if President Obama (hurray!) himself made little of it.

And the whole day itself itself was a wonderful example of American democracy in action, mixing an appropriate amount of pomp and circumstance with a terrific sense of inclusiveness. I think it’s great that the first act of a newly inaugurated President is to lay out their vision and plans to hundreds of thousands of ordinary voters. And I felt President Obama (hurray!) did that brilliantly. Some have complained that his inaugural speech wasn’t as inspiring as others he has made, but I saw the speech in full later on the BBC, and I thought it was as good as any he gave on the campaign trail as he made a call for a renewal of the responsibilities of citizenship so that America can face the challenges of today and retake it’s place as a genuine beacon of hope and shining light of democracy.  He also gave a pledge to act in a thoughtful and forward-thinking manner and celebrated the ideals and inclusiveness of America (although Tom Cruise must be gutted that Atheists got a shout-out but Scientologists didn’t get mentioned as part of the “patchwork heritage” that shaped America)

Also it was entirely appropriate that President Obama’s (hurray!) speech strike a more sombre tone, given the difficulties facing America and, by extension, the world. People are tired of being told that things are great when, quite plainly, they are not and it is a relief to know that there is now an American President willing to acknowledge problems and address them rather than trying to spin them and breed false confidence. I do acknowledge that we shouldn’t expect President Obama (hurray!) to usher in an era of Universal Peace and Prosperity-the challenges facing America are enormous and there is only so much he can do, even if he gets everything right (sometimes there may not even be a right option, just a bunch of bad ones). However, I do believe that he will be, at the very least, a solid, dependable leader and I hold out the hope that he will prove to be a great President, possibly the best since Roosevelt-in the end only time will tell.

PS – I am glad to learn that Teddy Kennedy has left hospital and is reported to be in good spirits and that Robert Byrd did not fall seriously ill at the inauguration lunch. I’m certain everybody watching shared the concern and fear I felt at the time that this momentous day would be marred by tragedy. I actually found it moving, seeing the pictures of John Kerry, Chris Dodds and Orrin Hatch standing outside the ambulance looking after their friend and colleague. Politicians take a lot of flak (often well-deserved) but this was an example of the kinship amongst American senators that Joe Biden had alluded to during his Vice-Presidential debate and it was nice to see.

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The Bank of England dropped interest rates another half a percent, bringing it to a record low of 1.5%, causing City Workers to wet themselves with excitement. Because of course, as they all knew, that pathetic 1.5% drop in November followed by a wimpy 1% cut in December would obviously not be enough to kick-start the economy, but that this historic 0.5% adjustment will obviously send the economy rocketing upwards. At the risk of repeating myself, it’s really looking like we’re pushing on a piece of string, as Keynes would say. I could be wrong, maybe somewhere around 1%, everybody will get the mother lode of money from their banks and go on a crazy spending spree. Maybe those of you in US can clear that up and let me know if a 0% rate has brought about a new economic paradise.

Meantime Obama is forced to twiddle his thumbs in a hotel room and come up with economic plans that may be of no use by the time he even gets into office. Hey, reality show idea, why don’t we allow Obama into the White House early and force George Bush, John Howard and Tony Blair to stay in the Big Brother House with a volatile mix of Iraqis and shoes.

Firstly, a very Happy New Year to everybody. However, I have this weird feeling of still being stuck in 2008 with all it’s problems at least until January 20th. Because as long as Still President Bush is in office these problems sure as hell aren’t going to get solved. So it feels like we’re all sitting in a lifeboat waiting for the coastguard and hoping that nobody does anything to cause a leak (Dammit Israel!!!). They say a week is a long time in politics, so the next three weeks are going to feel like a lifetime. And what an in-tray President Obama is going to have on his first day: Fix the global economic crisis, arrange for an orderly withdrawal from Iraq, save the American motor industry while ensuring its long-term viability, achieving energy independence and solving global warming, stopping a resurgent Taliban and getting Israel and Hamas to talk just after a pretty severe deterioration in relations that weren’t the best to begin with. So…no pressure then.