Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Few Thoughts on the Inauguration



- The way that Barack Obama and George W. Bush have interacted with each other since Election Day has been gracious and classy. The Inauguration was no exception, with President Obama thanking former President Bush for his service, and the men embracing twice (after President Obama's address, pictured above, and as the Obamas accompanied the Bushes to the Marine helicopter for the Bushes' flight to Andrews Air Force Base).

- Obama's rhetoric about "responsibility", "tough decisions", and "shared sacrifice" was a noteworthy. One wonders to what policies Obama was alluding. Cost-saving reforms of entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security? A long shot, perhaps, but it's hard to imagine a President coming into office with more political capital or goodwill. Perhaps Obama will choose to spend some of that on entitlement reform. Reforms that restrain the growth of the government's unfunded entitlement liabilities -- even reforms not scheduled to take effect for several years -- could help assuage the bond market's concerns and maintain the demand for U.S Treasury securities (the supply of which will of course expand over the next few years, as we finance trillion dollar+ deficits).

- Another awful inaugural poem. This was the fourth time an inauguration has featured an inaugural poem, and Elizabeth Alexander delivered the third clunker in a row with her "Praise Song for the Day". As a nation, we are now 1-for-4 on inaugural poems, by my estimation. The only good one was the first, The Gift Outright1, by Robert Frost, recited at JFK's inauguration in 1961:

The Gift Outright

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.



1Frost had actually written another poem for the occasion, but in the sunlight of inauguration day wasn't able to read his text. So he recited his poem The Gift Outright from memory.

2 comments:

Todd Pletcher said...

Spending upwards of $150 million on today's inauguration activities in the midst of this financial crisis was bordering on criminal.

Second worst only to the billions wasted on the presidential campaigns themselves.

JK said...

I would think the Washington DC economy is getting a nice ROIC for hosting everyone traveling there. People are going there to spend a lot of money. Even a regular "joe the plumber" could probably have made a good sum by hawking Obama T shirts to everyone coming in.