May 3, 2011

Holy smoke

"After giving his consent, Obama, wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia left the White House on a busy day of travel, with three stops in two states. In Alabama, one of several Southern states battered by fierce tornados, Obama assumed his role as consoler in chief as he and the first lady got an up-close look at communities in Tuscaloosa that had been flattened by the twisters. Next stop: Cape Canaveral, Fla., even though Endeavour's launch, the next to last one before the shuttle fleet is retired, had been scrubbed for technical reasons well before Obama left Alabama. He stuck to his schedule, touring NASA facilities with his family. He also met privately with wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is the shuttle commander. The president also delivered an evening commencement address at Miami Dade College before returning to Washington. On Saturday, Obama attended the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner and lobbed a few barbs at Donald Trump after having endured weeks of attacks by the prospective Republican presidential candidate over whether Obama is U.S.-born." — A P
Apart from what this confirms about Obama's character — the extraordinary reserves of patience — and suggests some things we didn't know — the gutsiness — I find myself most fascinated by the sea burial: the speed of it, the thinking behind it (no grave, no burial), the respect shown Islam, and the contrast all of this draws with the shambolic, shameful way Saddam was put to death. I can't get enough of the details of Obama's weekend: the way they play retrospectively, reslanted towards this end-point, and the way that endpoint reveals the whole fabric of 24-hour photo-op news-cycle politics — is he looking serious enough? Should he be funny? Can he wear a tux? But what about the tornado? — is revealed for the flimsy, silly sham it is. We just got a tiny glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes ("photos showed him looking tense and clench-jawed") and it's fascinating. Adam Gopnik:-

"His pulse was low, his timing sound, his laughter deep; his extremely adept zinging of the Donald made all the papers and video blogs, of course, but what was perhaps less visible outside the hall was how delightedly relaxed he seemed as Seth Meyers zinged him. Trump’s head was locked in place, a varnished fixture, like the figurehead on the prow of a sailing ship at a pirate ride; Obama laughed and ducked and shook his (surprisingly whitened) hair with pleasure. And now we know, all the while, he knew that the very chancy order he had already given could very well spell the end of his Presidency. (And let us not lose sight of the reality that it nearly did all go wrong; that helicopter going down is a touch the screenwriter would have been reluctant to add on his own.)Doubtless any President would have managed to more or less pull through—Presidents get to be Presidents by not showing much stress under pressure, save Richard Nixon, who showed enough for all the rest of them together—but this was super-cool, blood cool, true cool. Whatever else one can say (and he can trust his detractors to say it all) this President does have the right temperament for the thing. If he was acting, he’s a damn good actor—almost good enough to play himself in “SealSix.”

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