Sunday, January 25, 2009

After months of worrying that Obama would not get elected, now you get the unnerving sense that he can't possibly be President - can he? It's not just the tedious, stubborn challenges to his citizenship, or that, of all things, the fucking swearing in was flubbed. It's this: Can all the pomp and ceremony and ludicrous, fawning deference that's reserved for American presidents really coalesce around him now? Over the past 16 years we've grown accustomed to the President as exalted clown - with Bush, the emperor had no clothes; with Clinton, the emperor had no pants. The elaborate ritual surrounding the office seemed more suited to these farcical figures - they were both versions of the grandiose, infantile King Ubu. It made sense that they had a special airplane, an outsize kitchen staff and guards outside their bedroom door. Part of what Obama brings to the White House is a seriousness, sobriety and prosaic approach - much in evidence in his inaugural address - that we might expect of a great college football coach but not of the occupant of this most curious perch atop our politics. In his life experiences, too, there is more for most Americans to relate to: community organizing (odiously disparaged by Rudy Giuliani at the Republican National Convention), teaching, dropping off the girls at school with a kiss. He is "a guy of the street," but not in the sense the McCain campaign intended. And now he is our president. Can it be true?