In case you missed it Sunday, the president and vice president took the oaths of office for their second terms. Thankfully, they did it before the two NFL playoff games that took place because the networks were not going to break into their regularly scheduled programming to let everyone know if Obama and Biden took their oaths later in the day.
Can you imagine, you’re watching Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49er’s scampering across the five-yard line headed for the end zone and — WTF? — some Fox newsie breaks in and says, “We bring you this special bulletin …”
I wanna watch the game! This is the National Football Conference championship game between the Niners and the Atlanta Falcons, who look like they are about to wrap up the playoffs on a sweet note, until the Niners come back to life and … OK, the president and vice president were sworn in, now let’s get back to football!
The Constitution, the real Constitution, not the one the Teabaggers often refer to, anyway, it says the president must end his term by noon Eastern Time on January 20th every four years. And then, if they are re-elected, the two take the oaths for their offices, the president does so after noon, Eastern Time.
Later in the day president and vice president and their wives gave speeches, but all four were on and off the dais in less then 20 minutes, not enough time to interfere with the real business of the day: the two professional football games that decide who will be in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, LA on February 3. It’s going to take place in the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome. I wonder of the building lives up to the standard of luxury one expects in a Mercedes.
We know who will be in the Super Bowl — the “Harbowl” Super Bowl. The game is, at the moment, best known because it is the first time the two head coaches are brothers, Jim and John Harbaugh. For Baltimore Ravens fans it might be more notable because linebacker Ray Lewis is ending his career in the big game.
For fans of the San Francisco 49er’s, the big excitement is that their team is back in it after 18 years. It was that same feeling for Packers fans in 1997 when the Brett Favre-led Packers went into this same Super Dome, minus the Mercedes mark-up, and beat the New England Patriots, led by Drew Bledsoe. Remember him? He was the big gun in the AFC before Tom Brady took his job.
Monday though, the national holiday for celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s all about the inauguration, about the major tradition in our nation that sets the United States apart from all other nations: we have the swearing in of our president.
Ceremonial in this case because the official ceremony took place Sunday. Even the democratic nations with parliamentary governments don’t do it this way. Our presidential terms are mandated to be four years and whether or not a person holds his office for a second term, he or she still must take the oath of office.
Can’t remember the specifics of a parliamentary election procedure, but the country, let’s say England, votes when there doesn’t seem to be any confidence in government. They vote for a party to be in power and the ruling party then selects the nation’s prime minister.
Here in the U.S. we have a more direct form of government. Every two years there are elections that affect national policy; members of the House of Representatives must be elected every two years, senators every six and presidents (and vice presidents) every four years. The most significant difference for us being we as American citizens can have our say on who sits in the oval office.
A lot has been said in recent years, rightly so, that he who gets the most campaign money wins the prize. In 2012 the American people reversed that trend, at least for one election cycle.
Many politicians with bigger bank accounts than their opponents lost, including the president’s opponent Mitt Romney. Last summer the great fear for many was that the billionaires spending a hundred million dollars each were going to buy our government, full and completely. The American people said, “No.”
This inauguration is special, not just because the first African-American president is being sworn in for a second term, not just because he’s being sworn in on the day commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., not just because he is only one of 17 presidents that has won a second term, not because he is the third president in a row that has won a second term, a feat that hasn’t been seen in nearly 200 years; it’s historic because the American people took a step back and chose to say no to the notion that those with the most money get to make all the decisions.
Don’t want to be too Pollyanna about this because the financially elite will still call most of the shots when it comes to governance, but at least in this one instance the people chose differently. There’s no doubt President Obama, like his Republicans colleagues in government, has rich benefactors to please, some of whom make your stomach turn. But that runs down both sides of the aisle.
What’s the inaugural speech about? The future. It’s about the continuation of a dream that began in 1775 when a few hundred colonists decided to stand up against the English Army at Concord; a tradition that was organized and first sworn into office in 1789 when General George Washington became our nation’s first president. The oath President Barack Obama took was the same one taken by President George Washington 224 years ago.
The president’s inaugural speech, like that of his predecessors, was not about specific policies, but about hope and determination and the irrefutable reality that the United States is one people, not two parties or two political or social philosophies.
During the president’s inaugural speech he mentioned the efforts and contributions of engineers. My buddy John, sitting in the other room, got up, applauded and cheered. Let’s face it: geeks don’t get nearly enough love.
But the president also mentioned the struggle for civil rights and how it continues today; “From Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall,” he said, references to the civil rights movement; the march in Selma, Alabama, but also the start of women’s rights that began in a little town in New York and the fight for equality for gay Americans that began with the riots at the Stonewall Inn, in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
How fitting that right after the president’s speech the 2002 winner of the inaugural season of American Idol was part of the ceremony. Kelly Clarkson sang, “My Country ’Tis Of Thee.” American Idol may be the most glaring icon of all that is profane in America, beset by the grotesque rules of materialism, capitalism and our obsession with celebrity, but like America, the ideal of American Idol is that anyone from any background can get up on that stage and win it all.
And like reality in America, gays won’t win it all, not yet anyway. In fact the best, most qualified person won’t win it all. Not every time. American Idol, like politics, is often a popularity contest and then after the winner is selected we sit there, maybe three years later (like we did in 2007), asking ourselves, “What the hell did we do?
Few people can name, in order, every man who has served as President of the United States. Same with American Idol and there have been only eleven winners of the show.
But this isn’t about a television show, so I’ll stop that rant here, but reiterate how symbolic that Kelly Clarkson performed.
The ceremony was hosted by New York’s Democratic Senior Senator Chuck Schumer and started with Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who gave the invocation. The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and then Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore in Joe Biden to his second term.
After the vice president recited his oath American musical icon James Taylor performed “America the Beautiful.” Then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts administered the oath of office to Barack Obama, one of only two presidents to take the oath of office four times. In 2008 the president and chief justice messed it up so they did it again afterwards. And of course President Franklin Roosevelt was elected to four terms as president.
Right afterwards the president delivered his speech and then we were treated to Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco who mentioned the children and teachers murdered in Newtown, Connecticut. The Reverend Luis Leon delivered the benediction and then Beyoncé Knowles closed the ceremony with a very stirring turn of our National Anthem.
What’s next? The 3,000-calorie inaugural luncheon — was it approved by the First Lady? — then the ceremonial parade followed by the inaugural balls. Monday is all about celebration. After that it’s back to work for the president and his staff.
On President Barack Obama’s agenda for the next four years will be his recent proposals for gun control. Well, maybe at the same time will be this debt-ceiling thing. Taking care of the national debt, making education paramount so the U.S. can produce the workers to perform the new labor of the 21st Century. And of course creating jobs to let the American people get a taste of the rebounding economy. So far only Wall Street and the wealthiest among us have benefited from the growing economy.
For those of us not participating in the inauguration, like 99.99 percent of us, it’s back to business as usual. Life doesn’t pause every time someone puts their hand on a Bible and takes an oath. Eh, I’m heading down to the beach to enjoy the beautiful weather. It will be close to 80° F and sunny.
Seriously, you won’t catch me in Washington, D.C. at this time of year. It’s too damn cold. There’s actually snow on the ground in D.C. You can have it, Maryland and Virginia. One of the beautiful things about America is we can choose to live wherever we please for whatever reason moves us. I prefer San Diego.
Now it’s time to turn our sight over to what’s really immediate and important in the near future: who is going to win the Super Bowl? Yeah, you Ravens fans are going ballistic, rightly so because they have proven the bookies wrong in the playoffs. If they win the big one, they will once again prove the bookies wrong because the San Francisco 49er’s are picked to win by four.
Seriously though, do you think the bookies could be wrong four times in a row?
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality.