No-drama Obama White House owns cellar full of noise

Published 11:55 am Monday, January 26, 2009

By Staff
I think my favorite line of many good ones in President Barack Obama's inaugural address was, "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply."
Is he perfect? No. He wears a White Sox cap. He smokes. And the first president to rely on e-mail is addicted to his CrackBerry. But he starts with 68-percent approval ratings and didn't deserve the Drudge Report's blaring headline, "Obama flubs the oath." It was Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who misplaced "faithfully," as in how you execute the office of President. Most thought it made them seem more human and didn't give it another thought.
I wish the magnitude of the problems America faces after shedding 2.6 million jobs in 2008, manufacturing falling to a 28-year low, three banks failing, unemployment that could top 10 percent and not just in Michigan and one in 10 homeowners at risk of foreclosure, would disarm angry ideologues who still pander in "childish things" like fake outrage instead of offering constructive criticism.
Now that the Jonas Brothers have gone, Sasha and Malia are expected to make their own beds at the no-drama Obama White House. Did you know the White House has a 200-album rock library to go with its private bowling alley and five chefs?
Several hundred LPs by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, the Kinks, David Bowie's "Hunky Dory," "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen, "Blood on the Tracks" by Bob Dylan, even some Ramones and Sex Pistols, originated in 1973 – the Nixon administration! – compliments of the RIAA, the record companies' trade group.
It was updated in 1979 for the Carter administration. Non-rocker Ronald Reagan banished the vinyl to the basement.
Where Reagan tarred government as the problem, Obama announced a new conservative liberalism, where "the question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works."
He vowed to end outdated programs that don't work.
That's a novel idea.
To the shaken faith in free enterprise, he said, "This crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."
Obama made a clean break with the Bush administration and Vice President Dick Cheney, who rolled from the stage in a wheelchair, on foreign policy.
"Earlier generations understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please," the president said, also denouncing the "false choice between our safety and our ideals."
"We are ready to lead once more," Obama announced to the world. Yet the tone of his rhetoric was more resolute than angry or celebratory.
Obama told CNN's John King, "This is going to be a general principle of governing. No spin, play it straight, describe to the American people the state that we're in."
That's a novel idea, too.
His address never uttered the phrase global war on terror, let alone axis of evil.
Diplomacy is back in vogue.
Obama's economic advisers reportedly recommended to him a sales tax holiday during the transition.
He rejected this temporary fix, believing it had no substantial or lasting policy impact.
That struck me as consistent with his stance during the campaign when Sen. John McCain and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported a gas-tax holiday which Obama thought was frivolous.
If we're going to spend money, let's spend it on investment that will make us stronger down the road seems to be his unwavering message.
He wants to transform the economy, health care and foreign policy, but also pays careful attention to details.
Obama will first shepherd the $825 billion stimulus package through Congress, then turn to the other $350 billion available to stabilize banks.
A major health care conference seeking universal access and involving everyone from corporate America to insurance companies is foreseen for late winter or early spring.
His citizen army held a reported 10,000 meetings during the transition to chew over health care priorities, submitting 5,000 written reports to the home office.
Then the administration will focus on achieving a comprehensive environmental policy.
Folks seem surprised that Obama wasted no time in pursuing change, starting with ordering closed Gitmo, the military prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The new commander in chief instructed the military to "execute a responsible military drawdown from Iraq."
Jan. 24 Obama used his first radio and Internet address to promote his economic aid plan, warning that "a bad situation could become dramatically worse" unless we act swiftly.
Quips, quotes and qulunkers: "Toward the end of the campaign, Michelle Obama asked me if I was going to write a novel about them like 'Primary Colors,' my satiric account of the 1992 presidential race. I was at a loss for words, in part because the thought hadn't even vaguely crossed my mind."
– Joe Klein in Time magazine
"He can't write a novel about us. We're too boring."
– President Barack Obama, reassuring his wife
No recession for recruiters: All military branches met or surpassed their goals as Americans seek stable employment. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the military surpassed its goal by adding 184,841 new active-duty service members.
Abu Ghraib reopening: But with a new name, Baghdad's Central Prison, after U.S. soldiers abused prisoners captured in Iraq.
1989: Last Super Bowl halftime show without a big-name headliner. Super Bowl XXIII in Miami featured local dancers.
Since Janet Jackson's 2004 wardrobe malfunction, gray rock gods are the staple: Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones, Prince and, Feb. 1, Bruce Springsteen.
The Boss kicked off HBO's "We Are One" Inaugural concert with 2002's "The Rising," once an anthem for the 9/11 heroes.
Since being adopted by first the Kerry and now the Obama campaigns, the song reminds us of that brief communal spirit with the world on our side.
Rolling Stone gives Springsteen's "Working on a Dream" – "his most expansive album" since Born to Run in 1975 – five stars.
At least two tracks – "Life Itself" and "What Love Can Do" "lean hard on the Byrds." The former's "jagged, sitarlike guitars are pure 'Eight Miles High.' "
Just think, Byrd Roger McGuinn will be in Dowagiac at the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival in a matter of months.
E-mail him at john.eby