Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The First 30 Hours

It's been quite a day and a half. Here are my highlights:
The Swear-In Snafu
How did Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts get the Presidential Oath of Office wrong? He had ONE job to do and it's only like 35 words long. Good lord.

At any rate, Obama has be "resworn" as of tonight, hopefully with the correct oath this time. It is debatable whether any of this matters -- the constitution is pretty clear that Obama became President at noon yesterday, but it is funny.

An Average Speech
Obama's speech effectively articulated policy differences with the Bush administration and reassured the world. I particularly liked the line about not sacrificing our ideals for security, harkening back to Benjamin Franklin's famous quote that "those who would sacrifice liberty for a measure of security deserve neither security nor liberty". Having said this, a lot of the speech was fairly ho-hum, a cut below the inspirational speeches that we've seen in the past from Obama including his '04 convention speech, his speech on race and his '08 acceptance speech. I would wager that a few weeks from now, few will remember much from the speech.

Cabinet Appointments Moving Along
Yesterday, the Senate approved by voice vote (which essentially means unanimously) six of Obama's cabinet picks.
They were:
Ken Salazar, Interior
Arne Duncan, Education
Tom Vilsack, Agriculture
Stephen Chu, Energy
Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security
Eric Shinseki, Veterans Affairs
Also approved by the Senate by voice vote was Peter Orszag to run the Office of Management and Budget

Today, Hillary Clinton was confirmed for State by a recorded vote of 94-2. Dr. Susan Rice was also advanced from committee as UN Ambassador.

Robert Gates does not require confirmation as he was already serving as Secretary of Defense under Bush.

In terms of cabinet departments, this leaves Justice (Eric Holder), Treasury (Tim Geitner), Commerce (?), EPA (Kim Jackson), Health & Human Services (Tom Daschle), Housing and Urban Development (Shaun Donovan), Labor (Hilda Solis) and Transportation (Ray Lahood)

Of these, Obama needs to name a Commerce replacement for the withdrawn Bill Richardson. Of the remaining nominees, only Holder and Geitner are expected to face significant opposition in the senate and all are expected to be ultimately confirmed.

Executive Orders
On his first full day in office, Obama issued several executive orders aimed at greater government accountability and transparency, including strict new lobbying rules, a pay increase freeze for cabinet officers and greater compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

Many of these are largely symbolic gestures, but I appreciate the symbolism. Let's hope Obama follows thorugh on this tone and we have greater accountability in government.

An executive order is also expected tomorrow to start the process of closing Gitmo.

Caroline Kennedy Withdraws

Caroline Kennedy has "dropped out" of asking for the appointment to the New York Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. Thank God. What an uninformed, unqualified, arrogant train wreck she turned out to be. Here's to New York Governor David Patterson for standing strong on this one.

Kennedy's Seizure

Ted Kennedy had a seizure during the congressional luncheon with Obama and was rushed to a local hospital. He appears to be recovering well and the word is that it was due to physical stress from the day. It did serve as a reminder how much time has passed since the Kennedy's were the youthful revolution that Obama now represents.

My Favorite Moment of All
Obama kicked off the congressional luncheon after expressing concern for Senator Kennedy, by thanking the wait staff at the venue. What a classy and rare thing to do.

Various Stylistic Choices

Okay -- as I guy who mostly owns clothes from Target, I am probably completely unqualified to speak on fashion, but what was the deal with Aretha Franklin's hat? And who told Michelle Obama that a yellow dress goes with green gloves and shoes?

Sorry -- I know all of this is incredibly irrelevant and normally I wouldn't comment, but it was a very visual ceremony.

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