President Obama should hire himself an expectations czar and immediately elevate the person to a Cabinet-level position. Forget all the talk about a secretary of culture. What the country really needs is a secretary of high expectations, a person who goes to work every day with the singular purpose of preserving the president's high approval and job-performance numbers and vigilantly guards against their natural erosion. Why? Because, right now, confidence in Barack Obama is all that is standing between us and a complete collapse into economic and emotional depression.
The president of the United States is black. Literally, not figuratively, not in some socio-psycho-political sense. But dark skin, black wife, black children. His name is Barack Hussein Obama, and despite the fact that it was a worldwide spectacle witnessed by billions or that the oath of office was administered twice, there is still a mind-boggling fancifulness to the whole episode; it's incredible in the original sense of the word.
And I say all this as someone who saw the whole thing with my own eyes. From my seat in the press section, I could see John Roberts' face -- plain as day -- as he flubbed the Big Moment. It was then that I realized how much this moment mattered to me.
In light of all the damage he's done, there has been a surprising harmlessness to George W. Bush as he has made his recent round of muted valedictories. Suddenly, he seems uncomfortable with the weight of his unpopularity and eternally on the verge of apologizing. But that is not his style. Instead, we've been treated to a sizzle reel of the trademark George Bush petulance, defiant rationalizations and avid resistance to any real self-examination.
"I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right," he explained from the Oval Office on Thursday. "You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions."
We live in hopeful times -- we are Americans after all -- and we should be thinking hopeful thoughts. On the historically depressing topic of race relations, we've been in a particularly hopeful place in the wake of the last election.
But if you need a gauge of exactly how anomalous Obama and his campaign were in the context of race, all you have to do is watch the chaos that now surrounds the process by which he will be replaced in the Senate.
On Tuesday the Minnesota state canvassing board will begin examining challenged ballots in what hopefully is the final round of deliberations in the Senate race between GOP incumbent Norm Coleman and comedian Al Franken, the Democrat.
The last undecided election of 2008 may well be the first one decided in 2009. On Tuesday the Minnesota state canvassing board will begin examining challenged ballots in what hopefully is the final round of deliberations in the Senate race between GOP incumbent Norm Coleman and comedian Al Franken, the Democrat.
As of Monday, Coleman officially led by 188 votes of the almost 3 million cast. The Franken team, however, believes that they are actually ahead by four, yes four -- more than three and less than five -- and they believe that when all the counting and shouting is done, Al Franken will become the 2,006th person to serve in the United States Senate.