Tuesday, January 20, 2009

# Posted 5:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A GLIMPSE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL LIMO: Yes, I was that close to greatness. I was standing on New York Avenue, looking toward 15th Street from about fifty yards up the block. Those who arrived at the parade route early were able to line up along the curb. The rest of us had to stay outside the security perimeter, which consisted of eight-foot-tall black metal fences. The crowd lined up five or six deep behind the fence, which stretched all the way across the avenue. One man stood on top of a parking meter to get a better view. One woman climbed a tree. When the first marching band passed, all I could see was a crowd of white hats, the brass tops of the band's tubas and French horns, and the Marines' bayonets.

Everyone was waiting for the electric moment when the President would walk by. There were a number of false alarms. We had no way to tell when the President was getting closer, because we were fifty yards back from the parade route, with ten story office buildings on either side. So we listened. At once point, a loud cheer went up from several blocks away and everyone got excited. A rhythmic chant of 'O-ba-ma' began. But it was premature.

While waiting for the big moment, the crowd was remarkably quiet and relaxed, which is unusual for a parade. Like yesterday, the crowd seemed to focus on Obama the man, not on politics (although one man next to me held up a small hand-lettered sign calling for the arrest of Bush and Cheney).

The deep rumble of truck motors provided the real indication that Obama was getting closer. First came the media truck, with cameras facing backwards on a raised platform to give photographers and cameramen a clear view of the President. As the cheers got louder and the limo came closer, everyone stood on their tip toes. Digital cameras rose in the air. Through the sea of arms, I was able to make out the top of the limo. And then it passed by. Almost immediately, the crowd began streaming toward home.

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# Posted 1:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WATCHING THE SPEECHES AT GEORGIA BROWN'S: I decided that the right way to watch the Inauguration was with a bloody mary in my hand. I watched the festivities from the bar at Georgia Brown's, famous in DC for its Southern cooking. There were around fifty people packed into the bar, gathered around the only television at Georgia's. (It's too nice a place to have televisions in the dining room.)

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.

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# Posted 12:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INAUGURATION DAY MINUS ONE: In several hours, I head downtown toward the general vicinity of the Inauguration. I don't have a ticket, but I figure with the size of the crowd expected, I'll still be in the midst of the celebration and get a sense of its feeling.

I also went down to the Mall today to see if I could take the pulse of the celebration a little bit early. I spent around two hours downtown, tracing a path westward across the mall toward the Capitol, then up Pennsylvania Avenue back toward the White House.

In short, the atmosphere was apolitical. I expected to see a welter of citizen activists handing out pamphlets, giving speeches and Being The Change that will begin tomorrow. Instead, there was only Obama. His face and his name were on t-shirts, hats, buttons, posters and everything else being sold by a small army of vendors that blanketed the Mall and its surroundings. Almost every one of the thousands of people I passed by was wearing one or more Obama item. The vendors must have been doing quite well. I hope they're ready for tomorrow.

If one looked carefully, there were a few telltale signs of citizen politics. A handful of individuals had Code Pink stickers on their coats that read "Make Out, Not War." A few people had video cameras or tape recorders. The only real noise was being made by three individuals with picket signs that displayed a long list of all those who are bound for hell -- Baby Killers, Homos, Porno Freaks, Idolaters, Muslims and various others.

Not surprisingly, the three with picket signs were surrounded by thirty Obama supporters shouting them down. The Obama brigade took various approaches to the nuisance. One man quietly approached one of the sign holders and sought to engage him in a calm discussion about religion and politics. Another man, responding to the picketers' challenge to show his knowledge of even one verse of scripture, yelled out "Just not lest ye be judged! Judge not lest ye be judged!" Two women started chanting "I will go to heaven! I will go to heaven!" The lead picketer didn't yield. He kept telling people again and again that they would go to hell. Eventually, the Obama brigade decided on the same approach as the picketers. In unison, they started chanting "You will go to hell! You will go to hell!"

That is how this sort of thing usually ends. People just yelling at each other mindlessly. I've been to a fair number of anti-war protests. When the protesters run up against counter-protesters, yelling is the result. But mindless yelling is democracy, too.

In this instance, I think the picketers only damaged whatever cause they were trying to support. I think they accomplished nothing except to validate the unfortunate stereotypes that so many liberals seem to have when it comes to conservative Christians. Precisely for that reason, Rick Warren's presence at the inauguration will be so valuable. While recognizing that Barack Obama also has political reasons for extending the invitation to Warren, it's still the right thing to do.

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# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY INAUGURAL POST (AT CONVENTIONAL FOLLY): Hello. What Conventional Folly really needed was a third blogger named David, so here I am. Now let me tell you a bit a where I was before. From April 2008 through election day, I was part of the foreign policy and national security staff for McCain-Palin 2008. It was educational, to say the least. Before joining the campaign, I was a policy analyst working mainly on defense issues. The most challenging part of that job was the four-month rotation I did in Iraq, where I did research on improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the number one killer of American troops.

While on the campaign, I also took leave from OxBlog, where I started blogging more than six years ago. It's pretty amazing how much the blogosphere has changed since then. In 2002, the word 'blog' was still an anomaly that had to explained to your friends. In fact, I didn't even know what a blog was until one of my classmates in grad school explained it to me, shortly before I joined OxBlog. He told me that hundreds of complete strangers went online every day to see what he wrote. Sometimes thousands. That sounded crazy, but I couldn't resist an audience. Writing a doctoral dissertation leads one down some pretty esoteric paths, so it was great to have the opportunity to discuss public events online.

IMHO, the most important change in the blogosphere since the early days is the rapid rise of blogging as an essential medium for professional journalists with the most prestigious jobs in their field. In the good old days, those same professionals tended to look down on bloggers as amateurs who probably wore pajamas while posting from their basements. Today, presidential campaign staffs monitor leading blogs throughout the day. The interesting thing is that almost all the blogs we followed on the McCain campaign were published by major media outlets, principally the major broadcast networks and Politico. The pajama-clad amateurs were barely on the radar.

One partial -- but critical -- exception to this trend is RealClearPolitics. Back in 2004, around fifteen blogs were invited to each of the conventions. I went to the GOP convention on behalf of OxBlog. At the convention, at a folding table in a hallway in Madison Square Garden, I sat next to Tom Bevan, one of the founders of RCP. When I went home after the election, I got addicted right away. Although I liked RCP's blog, its compilation of essential reading and new polling data were a breakthrough. The NY Times, Washington Post and other major media outlets have great website, but their business model forbids them from providing access to anyone else's content. RCP broke down that artificial wall, making itself indispensable Throughout the campaign, RCP was the homepage for our campaign's director for foreign policy and national security.

After nine months away, it's great to be back in the blogosphere. Many thanks to rest of the team at Conventional Folly and DoubleThink for bringing me aboard. This is gonna be great.


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# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I COME BACK TO YOU NOW, AT THE TURN OF THE TIDE.  We are just hours away from the inauguration of a new president.  I am just hours away from a new venture in the blogosphere. Nine months ago, I took an extended leave from OxBlog in order to join the foreign policy and national security staff of John McCain's campaign for president.  It was an educational experience to say the least.  I am extremely proud to have worked for Sen. McCain.

Since November 4, I have been considering where to go next.  I haven't really made a decision yet.  I've returned on a part-time basis to my old job as a policy analyst.  But for the first time, I want to dedicate a significant percentage of working hours to writing, both in print and online.  In the past, blogging was always a project for my after-work hours.  That is probably the most important reason I was never able to blog as much after finishing graduate school.

Effective tomorrow, I will be posting both on OxBlog and on Conventional Folly, the headline blog for DoubleThink magazine.  DoubleThink is sponsored by America's Future Foundation, which describes itself as "the premier non-profit network of young conservative and libertarian leaders, nationwide."  The chance to work with some of these people is one of the most important reasons I wanted to be part of DoubleThink and Conventional Folly.  On that note, I'd also like to give a shout-out to DoubleThink's editor, Cheryl Miller, who asked me to join the blog.  Cheryl served a while back as a White House speechwriter, in addition to being remarkably intelligent and talented.

My plan for the moment is to cross-post all of my DoubleThink posts here at OxBlog, so this can still be a one-stop shop for my writing.  Nice and easy.  Glad to be back.

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