Monday, January 21, 2013

Pomp--and Circumstance

John Boehner, his tan perfected for the occasion from its former mottled resemblance to the shifting colors in the grain of hardwood floor, to the more evenly distributed orange of a perfectly ripened tangelo, just barely covering the all-too-frequently present appearance of pre-speech imbibing just to the point of the controlled, slightest, heavy-tongued slur, strode to the ornate podium.

And so, in the Statuary Hall, the distribution of gifts--custom etched Lenox crystal to the President and Vice President, handsome leather bound mementos for all other attendees of the Congressional lunch--the pomp of the Inaugural ritual in its more intimate, clubbish, and, I imagine in the experience of Obama, necessary form, began.

The extended ceremonial of the day seems, for one who leans towards the introversive end of the scale, whittled, learned away through years of practice, a marathon of the multivariegated forms of political interaction--from gracious, heartfelt thanks, to centuries-old ritual, to dancing the first dance with your wife while Jennifer Hudson sings "Let's Stay Together."

Obama takes to them easily now, without the over-energized haste of his Senatorial days; embracing Sen. Leahy in a grateful hug, the movements of gratitude--the embrace, the face-to-face words of gratitude, the lean in, the grip of the shoulder, the pull away to look once again in the eyes, as he moved through the room, to the next, of so many, who awaited and deserved thanks, and who, so very often, appeared to offer them sincerely, awaited. A small degree of Lincolnesque slowness, of thinking of the steps, of self-awareness (or so we imagine, or infer from the mind of his writings and actions), a certain minute degree of physical exhaustion, and awareness of pacing--characteristic Obama traits.

As was the moment, after he had given his inaugural address, that he turned, told his retinue to wait. The writer, the introspective, the one who is aware that he wants to capture this moment, as the moments will begin to change around him, never to return to this one again, wanted to take it in fully one more time.

Obama might have felt the impulse to do this in 2009. But he would not have. And this certainty--this incremental increase in controlling his own fate, in command, in being less burdened by the height of expectation than moving in the continuum of leadership--is present in this moment.

Obama will always be thinking, rather than acting in a compensatory, justifyingly defensive manner from his gut. He will consider before acting, rather than leaping into the moment.

However, there is a sureness of feel, a sense of the more practiced and directed mind of one who has experienced the nature of those around him, has taken their measure and his; who has learned from some mistakes, and has internalized them both as lessons for action and less restricted caution. And a pleasure. Knowing that the second election would be the true confirmation of one mission of the first African American president--not only to be elected--but to be elected again.

After his swearing in, his daughter Malia turned to him, he smiled and said "I did it."

"You didn't screw it up, Daddy", she said, his daughter feeling her father's most direct concern with a child's centrality and immediacy--what Maraniss has referred to as Obama's care in "avoiding traps".

And, while there will be the countless haters, ideologues, paranoids, and even aside from them, rational political critics who may not concur with his daughter's assessment, there he stood.

The newly sworn-in second term 44th president of the United States.