A talent at campaigning, as is well known, does not a priori equate to a talent for governance. The celebrations–full, moving–are over. Today the work begins.
Obama has indicated a willingness and intention to hit the ground running. He has prepared for this well. The work of preparation has been detailed, based in realities rather than fantasies and vindictive ideology. There is an intention to hew to the needs of this nation, and to use factual indicators rather than long-held spiteful or self-deceptive illusions as a basis.
Now the work of translating those plans, and imposing them upon a moving world begins. Geithner sits now, taking the questions of the mildly impaired Jim Bunning, with the knowledge but also the clear uncertainties before him.
Each cabinet member, each agency head, awoke with the awesome, largely unknown task of the work before them, uniting members and through them the public before plans that, gratefully, have begun to take substantial form before today, but which cannot be fully formed, and which then must be brought to an expectatant public.
Yesterday, during Obama’s inaugural speech, the largest response–although this may have been an artifact of media placement, was to Obama’s line about a father who 60 years ago would have been turned away from a lunch counter. This is both a promising and an auspicious sign for the work ahead.
After we take pride in the first African American president–there is work to do. The recognition of the one does not immediately translate into the commitment and dedication required of the other. This is a difficult turn for the public to make, fed as it has been on easy entertainments and self-satisfactions, which they are all to ready to reach for and then walk away, all to unfamiliar with the task of sacrifice and volunteerism, day upon day, that Obama called for. He tried to make that turn–staying, as he does, within limits. We will see if a nation, gilded with the fragile protections of comforting distractions, will step up in the greyness of each day, to make this turn with him–and whether the Administration, in the face of recalcitrance and need for learning how to shoulder a burden, will stand to the task of consistent inspiration.