So over… the party, and all that. 2 million people have gone home. Toes are warm again. Ball gowns gone to the cleaners, souvenier buttons languishing on the dresser, falling into the cracks and drawers where they’ll delight and surprise in some spring cleaning years hence.
Time to get down to business. President Obama reportedly worked through his first weekend in the White House, and it won’t be the last working weekend I’m quite sure. Getting this nation moving in the right direction will take years of weekends. No more clearing brush at the ranch; we have thorny piles of debris all over the country.
President Obama had his game face on when he took the oath of office and gave his inaugural speech. I’ve been bemused by commentators who criticized his speech for not being somehow pretty enough, not a symphony of soaring eloquence and lyricism. Some find fault that the speech was sober, workmanlike, gritty. A few even found it irksome that Obama took his historical frame of reference back to the winter of 1776 when American troops shivered on the banks of the Delaware River as George Washington tried to figure out how to defeat the British encamped at Trenton. Wasn’t Obama’s hero supposed to be Abraham Lincoln? What’s up with George W(ashington)??
Having a president who understands and values the fullness of American history is a tremendous asset in the present circumstances. Obama’s sense of our history is not triumphalism, but realism — and the hope and strength that come with an intellectual understanding of previous grave challenges that great leaders and determined citizens managed to surmount through cooperation, courage and creative hard work.
Since last Tuesday, President Obama has moved quickly and decisively to lay out a plan for economic recovery; issued executive orders to close Guantanamo and end the use of torture; and began to move ahead on a wide range of issues that wove through the campaign. He appears to be trying to forge bipartisan coalitions on some of the toughest issues, particularly for the economy. Already, however, the drumbeats of opposition are echoing around town. The White House website promises to keep everyone updated on the issues as well as to promote transparency; time will tell if the promise of a more open governing style will be durable, and if that will make any difference.
Monday: the fourth quarter corporate reports start arriving. The depth of economic declines and severity of market reactions will be even clearer by Tuesday morning. Just one week into this new presidency, the urgency of this moment clearly demands that game face, respect for history, and all the long weekends yet to come.