Barack Obama’s second inaugural address this wintry but sunny Monday morning was at one and the same time astonishing, unexpected in both its content and thrust, but also a perfect expression of the tonality of this man, our 44th president, and therefore unsurprising–at least to the handful of pundits, like me, who by the end of 2008 had come to understand him well.
This our nation’s 57th inaugural address is not what any of the former presidential speechwriters interviewed on TV over the last few days predicted. Obama did not deliver what political wise ones, such as the men and women quoted in the Sunday New York Times, asked for from him. (more…)
What was the election of 2012 about?
It was not about money or jobs or the unemployment rate. This was from the start a wrong assumption among our punditocracy and political operatives of both parties. In his election night victory speech, Barack Obama said “our economy is recovering.” I disagree, and I think most Americans were of the same mind when they voted Tuesday.
Even for Republicans, there is much to celebrate on this the day-after the presidential election of 2012.
Let’s get one thing straight. Willard Mitt Romney was never going to be the next president of the United States. So watching the first election debate tonight may be enlightening, entertaining, nerve-wracking, annoying, boring, high-minded, anodyne—in any combination—but the underlying dynamic will not be winning versus losing.
Most of my Twitter feed is in Arabic. I don’t read Arabic. Sometimes I ask my niece to translate, but I try not to impose too often. The men and women I “follow” in the Middle East (and not all of them are Arabs, not all of them are Muslims–some are Copts and Syrian Orthodox–some Berbers, some Turks) captured my attention during the so-called Arab Spring because they know English and therefore were able to give witness via Twitter, for the benefit of the western world, to what was happening across North Africa almost two years ago.
I have kept these men and women at the heart of my Twittter feed as a reminder to myself that they–whatever the frustrations they feel now, whatever their dark impulses, and let me tell you, the anti-Copt sentiment in Egypt even among people we would call liberals runs deep–nevertheless, they are the future. Why? Because by mid-century over half the world population will be Muslim. Why? Because the arc of history for this century, unlike the last, is bending away from secularism and materialism and towards faith. Yes, the Islamic world–whatever that means, for the cultures and countries are various–is grappling with an inheritance of western values–both burdensome and wished-for. But it is they, and not us in the West, and specifically in the (still) remaining one world power the United States, who will define for this new century “liberty” and “human rights.” (more…)
The last time I saw Bill Clinton, in the flesh, I followed him through five campaign stops in one day across South Dakota. The event I often think about–well, I was swinging my legs from an elementary school desk, among a small group of maybe fifty others similarly perched, all of us gathered early in that small Dakota town, the name of which I forget. My takeaway from that morning in June 2008 is twofold: Clinton’s elegiac tone, for he knew this was the end of the road for his wife’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, and yet he did not understand, quite, why. I was the only reporter there. No national reporter of large reputation deigned to follow former President Clinton on the stump for Hillary in 2008. (Reminder: Hillary Clinton did win–too late to matter–the South Dakota primary.)
Bill Clinton’s marathon on behalf of Hillary Clinton–he sometimes made 7 to 9 small town speeches in one day–is lost to history. If I had to do it all over again, assuming the choice could have been mine, I would have concentrated exclusively on following Bill Clinton on his journey. And I would have photographed all those small town events, for that kind of American political campaigning–the front porch speech–historic–has almost passed away. (more…)
Here for the record, and in celebration of our national holiday, is a great piece of journalism from the 2012 Republican Convention in Tampa. “Dispatches from the Republican National Convention: Entry 6,” by Dave Weigel, writing for Slate, on August 28.
For those of you dear readers who presume that I am going forward with more stories about the dastardly behavior and stupidity of reporters as a way to illustrate what’s gone terribly wrong with American media–you are about to be disabused. I am not. And for the record, most of the newsgathering reporters I have met–well, it’s been an honor and a privilege–and they work long and woefully underpaid hours, under pressure to do more and more work across more and more media platforms, at greater speed–and during most of those hours (if not every single minute, but then we are all human, yes?) they try their damnedest to be fair.
Good reporters cannot rest until they feel they have found the whole of a story, as if such were the holy grail, the righteousness after which we are supposed to hunger and thirst and then be fed. I know, I know, immediately appearing in mind are any number of well-known pundits, bloggers and cable TV personalities who do not seem to fit my description. But now take a minute and think about it. Every profession has its hacks–law, medicine, mechanics, priesthood. It’s a rare and precious day when you encounter someone who has a calling to do what he or she does. My latest is a dentist in New York, a Ukrainian immigrant–so, yes, now I will be going to NYC for my dental work. I don’t know about good dentists (paucity or plethora), but I do know, having met them, that there are enough fine reporters laying down for posterity the American narrative that I can assert, as I did yesterday, that bias, liberal or otherwise, is not the problem. (more…)
Several months ago I quit my blog. A tangled decision. I had a number of health issues, long ignored, to tackle. (FYI, total knee replacement is one of those experiences that devour you mind, body and soul—for awhile.) Also, I felt I had nothing left to say about politics & media. Why should I continue to weigh in when all of us are inundated with too much information and commentary, as it is? I don’t know about you, but increasingly I am finding the noise tedious and wearisome.
The September 2007 issue of Vogue, weighing five pounds, has more ad pages than any magazine issue before or since. For that reason, as well as the lavishness and glitz of the products on display, both in the ads and in the articles, the issue now has the dubious distinction of icon: exemplar of the profligacy that would lead shortly to the Great Recession. Michelle Obama occupies a big fashion photo spread in the issue. In one memorable shot, she reclines, posed sinuously—the better to emphasize the long curve of her backless designer evening dress.
Now I challenge you to find online any photographic record of this particular Michelle Obama fashion shoot (Annie Leibovitz, no less). Although the accompanying article, written in that Vogueish effervescent style, is readily available, the photographs—well, it’s as if they never existed. (more…)