The Corner

Quick Inaugural Reax

1. Interesting musical combo: Itzhak, Yo-Yo, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela. I have written about them all, for many years. (Incidentally, McGill has a brother, Demarre, who is a very good flutist.) But how were they chosen? How were they brought together? A curious thing.

Was ethno-racial variety a consideration? Perish the thought — perish the thought fast.

Also, I wonder whether Gabriela (who’s from Venezuela) is an American. I don’t give a rip, believe me: This is music, we’re talking about. I just wondered. And it was interesting that she participated in a John Williams arrangement, because her specialty — her claim to fame — is improvisation. Did she break from script?

Finally — and irrelevantly, of course — I have met her, and she’s a total babe. (I can say that on the Corner, right?)

2. A European friend (mix of nationalities) called me, a few minutes to 12. Wanted to share the last moments of the Bush administration with me. (I wasn’t able to take the call, but never mind.) Credited me with awakening his appreciation of Bush (I blush to say, but what the heck). Was nice.

3. What a great, great shame that Chief Justice Roberts screwed up the oath-administering. A great shame. This is a video clip for all time — an “iconic moment.” I’m sure he feels terrible about it. Possibly, he was “nervous as a whore in church,” as an old southern friend of mine used to say. Obama wasn’t.

4. I thought Obama did the minimum about Bush — the barest minimum: “I thank him for his service,” or something. He could have done a lot more: not with more words, but with better, truer, more gracious words. Bush has certainly done a lot. For one thing, he is passing on to his successor the means with which to fight the War on Terror.

5. Obama said something like, “It’s time to quit putting off the unpleasant decisions.” Geez: Making unpleasant decisions, in both the domestic and foreign spheres, was Bush’s specialty. In fact, he sacrificed a good deal of political popularity because of it.

6. I liked Obama’s nod to Dorothy Fields, the lyricist — who wrote, “Pick yourself up, take a deep breath, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” And, by the way, my favorite recording of that song — a Kern song — is by McNair and Previn, on this album.

7. Obama talked about “restoring science to its rightful place.” I thought that was a cheap, stupid shot. The opinion-makers will love it, of course.

8. He suggested — more like said — that Bush had jettisoned American ideals in order to pursue security. That is a slander, pure and simple. Slandering your predecessor is not a good way to start a presidency.

9. He said that “we are ready to lead once more” — ready to lead the world in the search for peace and dignity. That, my friends, is just what Bush has been doing for eight years. It would have been truer to speak of continuing to lead.

10. Obama said that we must now “leave Iraq to its people.” Well, it’s chiefly because of George W. Bush and the U.S. military that Iraqis have any say at all over their own country. No Bush, no U.S. military: no Iraqi democracy, or semi-democracy, or even hope for democracy (or decency or non-tyranny).

11. Obama said that we must “no longer ignore the suffering outside our borders” (if I heard him correctly). Oh, since when have we been doing that? In fact, one of the biggest criticisms of Bush is that he has gone too far in trying to alleviate the suffering of others — “imposing our values” and all that. And will Obama better Bush’s Africa program? Fat chance.

12. You may call this picky — and perhaps wrong — but I don’t consider the presidential oath of office a “sacred oath”; I consider it a civic one — despite the “So help me God.” (And yes, I’m familiar with the phrase “our sacred honor,” thank you.)

13. Obama did not give a bad speech — although I think there were bad, even disgraceful, lines in it. But I don’t think he gave a particularly good speech. I admired its brevity, however. And I hope his presidency continues better than it began. Time to stop knocking (and sliming) Bush and do something on his own.

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