Tuesday, January 20, 2009
# Posted 1:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
President Bush was introduced as the ceremony began. A chorus of boos went up spontaneously from the crowd, followed by an embarrassed chuckle. Loud cheers for Obama. Nothing for Biden, although later he got a solid cheer after taking the oath of office.
Rick Warren rose to deliver the invocation. (Grumbling.) The woman behind me said she couldn't believe someone like Warren was given this opportunity. I turned to her and asked, "Why do you think Obama did it?" She paused for a moment and said, "He did it because he's a..." She trailed off. She paused again. Then she asked me why I thought he did it. I said because he's running for re-election.
Before Obama took the oath of office, a handful of Code Pinkers arrived at the bar. One of them had on a pink skirt made of cellophane and a frizzy pink wig. Sen. Feinstein introduced Chief Justice Roberts to administer the oath. The crowd was uncertain. Should they express their feelings toward the Chief Justice, or should they cheer for the announcement that the oath would was about to begin? One woman cheered. Others followed. Obama took the oath and a great sound of joy went up from the bar.
Obama began to speak. He thanked Bush for his service. A few grumbles were heard. One of the Code Pinkers gave Bush the middle finger. Obama cites the words of scripture and a few excited women begin to cheer. Obama promises to "restore science to its rightful place." One woman applauds loudly. Others clap in response.
Obama declares, "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." The loudest applause yet. It took me a minute to realize that the crowd interpreted these words as an implicit criticism of Guantanamo, renditions and everything else that civil libertarians reject as part of the war on terror. I think that interpretation was right, but I thought at first Obama might be talking about human rights and democracy abroad.
Obama reminds us that, "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers." From the back of the room, big cheers for 'non-believers'. Universal applause when Obama says that his father might not have been served at a local restaurant sixty years ago.
The end of the speech seemed to come too soon. Something had not yet happened. Something had not yet been felt. But it was definitely a good day. The crowd turned back to its drinks as Elizabeth Alexander began her poem. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
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