Tuesday Late Morning ReadsPosted: January 22, 2013
Good Morning Everyone!!
I know it was “just words,” but I still have a good feeling the day after President Obama’s second inauguration. We already discussed to Obama’s surprisingly liberal-sounding speech yesterday. I’ll have more reactions for you today, but first let’s talk about what Michelle Obama wore last night. It was Jason Wu and Jimmy Choo!
By the time the president took the stage at the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball to greet the audience and to introduce the first lady—“I have a date”—the Twitterverse was hyperventilating over which designer she would choose. (According to CNN, the first lady had narrowed it down to two designers from a pool of 15.)
But when she emerged in a beautiful red draped dress by Jason Wu, she still managed to shock. Wu is the designer she catapulted to fame in 2009, when she wore a one-shouldered dress of his design to the first inaugural balls. Immediately after that, Wu, who emigrated from Taiwan at age 9, was on the map. So wouldn’t it have been nice for the first lady to pay it forward—and to select another, lesser-known American designer to wear on the big night?
Even the first lady’s wardrobe is controversial for some people.
But according to David Yermack, professor of finance at the Stern School of Business at New York University and the author of the 2010 Harvard Business Review study on The Michelle Obama Effect, the first lady doesn’t owe it to anyone to change designers. “She has a big impact [on sales],” he says, “but I don’t think anybody’s entitled to it. If she picks the best designer and it’s the same person twice in a row, more power to that person.”
And after Monday night, Wu is that person. Still, the designer says he’s changed since the 2009 inauguration. “I’ve just refined my skills and grown my business,” he told The Daily Beast earlier this month, noting that the Jason Wu woman in the last four years has become “a little sexier, a little more provocative, and a lot more womanly.” That was certainly evident in Obama’s fire-engine red dress.
Now some reactions to the Inaugural Address. Yesterday, James Fallows posted his preliminary reaction, calling Obama’s speech “startling.”
This was the most sustainedly “progressive” statement Barack Obama has made in his decade on the national stage.
I was expecting an anodyne tone-poem about healing national wounds, surmounting partisanship, and so on. As has often been the case, Obama confounded expectations — mine, at least. Four years ago, when people were expecting a barn-burner, the newly inaugurated president Obama gave a deliberately downbeat, sober-toned presentation about the long challenges ahead. Now — well, it’s almost as if he has won re-election and knows he will never have to run again and hears the clock ticking on his last chance to use the power of the presidency on the causes he cares about. If anyone were wondering whether Obama wanted to lower expectations for his second term … no, he apparently does not.
Of course Obama established the second half of the speech, about voting rights and climate change and “not a nation of takers” and “Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall” [!] etc, with careful allusions through the first half of the speech to to our founding faiths — and why doing things “together,” the dominant word of the speech, has always been the American way.
Later last night, Fallows offered a more detailed analysis: The Two Most Powerful Allusions in Obama’s Speech Today. The first allusion that impressed Fallows was “the lash and the sword.” The relevant quotes with Fallows’ comments:
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of [our founding] words with the realities of our time. [Note: this preceding sentence is the one-sentence summary of the speech as a whole.] For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
And for more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together….
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
Fallows notes that these passages refer to Abraham Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address in 1865 and Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech from the campaign of 1858.
The second allusion that impressed Fallows was the one that strongly affected many Sky Dancers: Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
Read more analysis from Fallows at the above link. More reads below the fold.
At The Daily Beast, John Avlon called the speech “a Progressive Manifesto.”
The president used his second inaugural address to try to demolish the false dichotomies that have defined the overheated political debates of the past four years, implicitly making the case that his Democratic Party’s agenda is squarely in the mainstream of American history—expanding individual freedom through collective action.
It was an audaciously political speech, a statement of personal and partisan principle, rather than the expected broad bipartisan outreach. From the outset, the president took aim at conservatives’ claim to represent the idea of American exceptionalism, arguing instead that it is achieved by the constant struggle to expand equal opportunity.
This is a decidedly Lincoln-ian reading of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, rooted in reality: “For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.”
As evidence, President Obama charted the many times throughout our history when citizen movements were ultimately successful because of government action, making his second inaugural address double as a progressive manifesto.
At Inside Higher Ed, a number of professors (“experts in rhetoric, political communication or inaugural history”) graded Obama’s second Inaugural. The highest grade was an A- and the lowest a C+. That tends to be about the range of grades in today’s “grade inflation” academic world.
Of course there was plenty of GOP whining about the “tone” of the president’s speech.
“I would have liked to have seen some outreach,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential race. “This is the eighth [inauguration] that I’ve been to and always there’s been a portion of the speech where [the president says], ‘I reach out my hand because we need to work together.’ That wasn’t in this speech.”
Too bad, Senator McNasty. You had your chance and you lost. And then you lost again with Mitt Shady. You don’t get to dictate the terms of the debate even if they think so on the Sunday shows. Read more GOP boo-hoo-ing at the link.
The best articulation of GOP sadness came from Politico of course: Republicans: Fighting words from Obama in inaugural speech.
Republicans really didn’t like the liberal policy agenda that Obama outlined, including just about every progressive priority and only some of their own, including hugely controversial topics like gay rights, income inequality, climate change, gun control and immigration.
In fact, Republicans complained that the 18-minute speech sounded much more like a sharply edged partisan campaign speech meant to set up a fight than an inaugural address intended to inspire togetherness and unity with soaring rhetoric.
“The words were code for a progressive agenda. I’m hoping that the president will recognize that compromise should have been the words for today, and they clearly weren’t,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent Obama critic who has zealously pursued a contempt case against Attorney General Eric Holder.
“We were hoping that he would use this day to reach out to all Americans and all parties. He clearly did not.”
Whatever you do, don’t miss this classic of Politico beltway bullsh&t. It’s a laugh riot.
In other news, what the heck is going on a Notre Dame anyway? Deadspin, which broke the Manti Te’o story had another strange one yesterday: Football Recruit Who Said His Notre Dame Visit “Went Great” Never Actually Visited Campus.
Georgia high school running back Stanley Williams committed to UGA two summers ago, but he may be having second thoughts. As his star has risen, he’s received interest from a number of big-time programs, including, he says, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Oregon, and Notre Dame. The junior is planning to weigh all his options, and that includes making plenty of campus visits this offseason.
Williams was scheduled to travel to Notre Dame this past weekend, and take in Saturday night’s ND-Rutgers basketball game. Yesterday, he told Blue and Gold Illustrated all about his trip.
“The visit went great,” Williams said. “It was great to experience something new and different, and we had a great time at the game. I had been looking forward to it for a while, and it was great to just get out there and see a new place. I plan on getting up there a couple more times in the future.”
One little problem. Williams never actually went to Notre Dame.
Deadspin has also collected and published all the tweets between Manti Te’o, his nonexistent dead girlfrind Lennay Kekua, and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged perpetrator of the girlfriend hoax: Lennay And Manti (And Ronaiah): A Love Story In Tweets.
On a more serious note, ESPN takes note of Notre Dame’s pattern of minimizing and covering up for rapes by members of their football team.
Could the GOP War Against Women be creating a backlash of support for abortion rights? A new poll suggests it’s possible. From the Wall Street Journal:
Seven in 10 Americans believe Roe v. Wade should stand, according to new data from a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, as the landmark Supreme Court abortion-rights ruling turns 40 on Tuesday.
That is the highest level of support for the decision, which established a woman’s right to an abortion, since polls began tracking it in 1989. The shift is mostly the result of more Democrats backing the decision—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—and a slight uptick in support from Republicans.
But the poll showed a consistent tension in Americans’ attitudes toward the decision. Almost seven in 10 respondents say there are at least some circumstances in which they don’t support abortion.
Some 31% of respondents in the poll said abortion should always be legal, and 9% believed it should be illegal without any exceptions. Between those two opinions are the 23% who thought it should be legal most of the time, but with some exceptions, and the 35% who felt it should be illegal except in circumstances of rape, incest and to save a woman’s life.
The article highlights changes in the way activist on both sides are addressing the issue and points out that (as we all know) red states are making a great deal of progress in limiting abortion rights despite the public support.
A few more reads in link dump fashion:
The Atlantic: How Forks Gave Us Overbites and Pots Saved the Toothless
Salon/Alternet: Is John Stewart Alienating His Fan Base? Speaking only for myself, I was over Stewart quite awhile ago because of his Villager-like false equivalency obsession.
The Daily Beast: When Martin Luther King and Richard Nixon Were Friends
On final long read from Alternet: The South’s Shocking Hidden History: Thousands of Blacks Forced Into Slavery Until WW2
So those are my recommendations for today. What about you? I look forward to clicking on your links!