The Inaugural: first thoughts

Joseph Lowery stole the show.

1. Well, that was pretty impressive, wasn’t it? [Update: Crowd estimated at 2 million.]

2. The five sweetest words in the English language: “former Vice-President Dick Cheney.” Notice that Obama’s generosity toward the losers had its limits: dinner with McCain last night, kind words for GWB today, but he has consistently drawn the line at Cheney.

3. Was Yo-yo Ma enjoying himself as much as he seemed to be, or is that just stage presence? He seemed almost giddy: which didn’t of course, mean that he missed a note. The whole quartet performed brilliantly (with the pianist wearing mittens).

4. I haven’t read much Elizabeth Alexander, and the occasional poem is a tough form to work in, but it seemed an admirable effort.

5. Joe Biden took the Congressionally-mandated oath for all civil servants:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

I wonder how many people listening recognized “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion” as an old bit of anti-Catholic mumbo-jumbo. The story was that the Jesuits told Catholics that they could take a false oath without committing any sin by inserting a “mental reservation” while doing so, like a child crossing his fingers while telling a lie. Time to retire this bit of tradition? Oh, and by the way “So help me God,” which is in the statute, is pretty obviously precisely the sort of “religious test” banned by the Constitution.

6. Joseph Lowery stole the show.

Thoughts on the address to come.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: