Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Been there, flubbed that

Like most people, except Jose’ who was busy using the leaf blower here on the ranch to rearrange the dust, I watched the presidential inauguration on TV.
At least, I watched until the announcer told the crowd that it was time for a woman named Elizabeth to recite a poem written for this occasion, which apparently was code for “hey, let’s see if we can beat some of this traffic.’
It has been my experience that when you plan to have a poet as part of the program, it is best to have an indoor venue, preferably one with doors that can be locked.
In the spirit of unity and bi-partisanship - this is something that the media has been urging now that the Democrats have control of the House, Senate and White House - I tried to give Elizabeth a chance, even though I’m from the old school of poetry which prefers meter and rhyme. I haven’t hear a good poem since Frost - that’s Robert not David.
Frost is one of just four poets to ever be a part of an inauguration, by the way. Interestingly, all have waxed poetic over the arrival of a Democratic president, not that the Party is pretentious, of course. When Republicans are inaugurated, a singer in a cowboy hat is substituted for the poet.
So I admit that I didn't watch all 847 hours of inaugural coverage, but I'm assuming it all came off like clock-work.
Those minor criticisms aside, I enjoyed watching the inauguration ceremonies, which even though they are carefully scripted are nonetheless interesting.
About the only unexpected moment came, oddly enough, during the swearing in ceremony itself. President Obama absolutely mangled the 35-word oath of office.
Now, this was not a major gaffe, we were assured by the media - it wasn’t Bush doing the mangling, after all. (Can you just imagine if "W'' had mangled the oath? Chris Matthews would have a tingle down his leg, I bet. Keither Olbermann would blather on about it for a couple of decades).
No, it wasn't a big mistake. Still, it was a shock. Obama is nothing if not an elegant, poised confident public speaker. So the fact that he messed up the lines was startling in the same manner as say, when Shaquille O’Neal makes a free throw or Pamela Anderson shows up somewhere without cleavage.
Me? I can certainly empathize with President Obama. In fact, I view his slip as sort of a means of establishing common ground with the 44th President.
Certainly, I am in no position to criticize him for his misstep, mainly because I remember too well what happened on the historic day of April 11, 1986.
It was on that date that I stood out in front of the fountain at the Wyndham Rose Hall Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica and faced a short little minister who bore an uncanny resemblance to Desmond Tutu to exchange vows with Miss Susan Eileen Kennedy - or at least I tried to.
For, when the Jamaican minister asked me to repeat after him, “With this ring, I thee wed,’’ I instead uttered, “With this wing, I thee red.’’
And then a lady poet came out and recited a poem entitled “Praise Song for the Idiot.’’
I knew, of course, that there was no reference to wings or the color red in the traditional wedding vows, but unlike the inauguration, NBC was not on hand to make excuses for me by saying it was really the minister’s fault.
Oddly enough, Susan, who hours earlier had threatened to call off the ceremony on the grounds that her “hair wouldn’t do right,’’ sailed through the vows without a hitch. As you might suspect, she teased me unmercifully after the ceremony was all over.
So, yes, it was a mistake, but, no, it wasn’t a big deal.
The marriage was still legally binding - at least it was until 2002 - and I’m pretty sure Obama is officially the president and will - in his words - “execute faithfully the office faithfully of the President of the faithfully United States faithfully.''
If I ever have occasion to talk with the President - I’m guessing my best chance is to be one of those victims who loses his house trailer in a tornado and he shows up to survey the destruction - I am going to mention our common bond.
I feel your pain, Prez.


Christine K. Bailey said...

I love it! Great blog, Slim.

Anonymous said...

WASHINGTON -- Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled slightly over the 35-word constitutionally prescribed oath of office as he swore in Barack Obama as the 44th president on Tuesday, sending the new chief executive into a verbal detour of his own.

PS: That's from Fox News

Marilynn said...

Yes, the (free) EV Tribune today covers this matter on page A21 "Chief Justice Roberts stumbles over oath" that includes a verbatim of how Roberts stumbled. There's also a replay of the administered oath available on YouTube.