Hail To the New Chief


This just in….

NBC’s Al Roker, stationed on one of the parade reviewing stands just in front of the White House, was claiming to have gotten the first media comment from the 44th president.

Roker shouted out to Barack Obama to say hello as Obama strolled up Pennsylvania. “Come on,” he pleaded. According to Roker, Obama responded “it’s warm,” an ironic reference to the 26-degree temperature or perhaps tp the collective warmth toward him of the bundled-up, red-cheeked crowd. 

Roker, who is more used to parades with giant ballons and Santa, basked in that brief “get,” while Brian Williams, tongue presumably in cheek, talked of the new president “beaming after his first successful interview.”

A quick shift to Fox found them talking about the inaugural balls and how the food was terrible and people were packed in like sardines, as well as whether the late-starting parade could cause the president to miss some of the parties.

Earlier in the proceedings, what was predicted, at least by Wolf Blitzer, as potentially the biggest TV audience in history, Tuesday heard a brief speech from Barack Obama–about 20 minutes–that did not ring through the ages as much as it sounded an alarm bell to this generation at this moment to change course.

There were some strong lines, including the reference to the “bitter swill” of Civil War and segretation, misheard by one TV commentator as “bitter pill” (unless I misheard it), and a pledge that challenges “will be met.” But there were also implied criticisms of the Bush administration that seemed meant to establish a dividing line between old and new.

For media folks listening in, there was a reference to the “digital lines” that must be extended to all, and a suggestion to the marketplace that the new decider would be regulators with an eye toward preventing those markets from spinning out of control.

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) apparently had a seizure during the congressional lunch with President Barack Obama, according to CBS, and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.

CBS had planned to cut to toasts from the luncheon but had to delay as Kennedy was taken from the hall on a stretcher.

Kennedy, who has been battling brain cancer, was considered instrumental in giving Obama an edge over Hillary Clinton in their close primary race when he joined his neice Caroline Kennedy in endorsing Obama.

The TV coverage I saw balanced celebrating the history of the moment with a bit of leavening in the form of references to the horrible economy and the scope of the challenge ahead, something the new President’s speech did as well.

A quick trip to Fox found talking heads talking about how new information suggested the Obama administration’s vaunted economic stimulus package may be too far down the road to be of any good.

By a little after 2 p.m., Brian Williams was already calling “old news” Chief Justice John Roberts’ muddling of the oath of office he was administering. Roberts failed to faithfully execute the oath,  misplacing the word “faithfully,” which breifly stopped the almost president in his tracks. Actually, Obama was already president before the oath was administered since it was past noon, when the Constitution says the new presidency begins, oath or not.

Earlier, Wolf Blitzer put it succinctly: “John Roberts had one job to do today and he sort of screwed up.”

Pedro Sevcec, a reporter for NBC’s co-onwed Telemundo, praised the speech for marking the clear differences between administration with keeping a consistent voice on opposing terrorism.

Sevcec said the most powerful message is that what people dreamed for decades and centuries became a reality.  “Welcome to an era of challenges and more opportunities,” he said.

Williams said Tim Russert’s absence loomed over the proceedings, then cut to Russert’s sons, Luke, who was reporting from the mall for the network. He briefly interviewed a guy who had brought a banner saying “what a country,” one of Tim Russert’s catchphrases, that had been signed by hundreds of people in honor of Russert.

Republican Congressman Lindsey Graham said he liked the “sobering” aspects of the speech–it talked of putting away childish things and assumeing more responsibility– and the feeling of friendship and community among the couple of million people on the mall, a feeling he said could not be felt through the TV set.

That last point was debatable.

Wouldn’t it be “spectacular,” said CBS Face the Nation anchor Bob Schieffer, if President Barack Obama chose to get out of the limo in front of the First Amendment carved on the outside of the Newseum.

He didn’t, but folks on the balcony got a great view of the passing parade as the president made his way to the White House and the reviewing stand for the Inaugrual parade. The museum, ironically, is host to the production of Scheiffer’s rival for Sunday morning hearts and minds, Geroge Stephanopoulos of ABC’s This Week.

But only moments later, Obama got out of the car at about Eighth St. and began waving to the crowd, which understandably errupted in cheers.

“It’s a nice moment,” said ABC’s Charles Gibson.

A switch back to Fox found Major Garrett talking about a second possible toxic asset buy-up by the new administration and walling off bad assets, followed by a reference to the Congressional Budget Office report that the economic stimulus package may not have much effect in the short term.

A quick cut to CNN found ambient sounds of a cheering throng and Wolf Blitzer talking about Barack Obama probably wearing comfortable shoes as Obama returned to the car.

David Gergen said be breathed a sigh of relief when Obama got back in the car, saying he thought it “showed a lot of courage.”

“We have such a history of violence,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson, who also clapped when Obama got back in the car. “A few waves are very risky,” Jackson said.

CNN then cut to John King inside the Newseum, doing his magic screen thing with a collage of pictures of the swearing-in sent in to CNN.

A computer synthesizes the information around a point of reference–say a flag flying on the Capitol–and creates a composite photo that King could surf around and enlarge upon as he did with the electoral maps.  Sometimes there was more manipulation than elucidation in the graphic, which swooped in too close or didn’t magnify at the right times, but it was an amazing technology nonetheless.