Barack Obama`s Progress Report
Barack Obama had his 48th birthday this week. Since we learned during last year's campaign that he can be blamed for anything bad that's happened in this country since he was a toddler, perhaps this is a good time to suggest that it's his fault the Beatles didn't perform at Woodstock.
The president celebrated by having lunch with the Democratic senators, proving once again that this is truly a guy who knows how to party. He also showed up at a press briefing to sing “Happy Birthday” to Helen Thomas, the legendary reporter and columnist who turned 89 on the same day.
Thomas began covering the White House for United Press International in 1961, and she once told me that the competition for Kennedy family stories was so intense, U.P.I. woke up press secretary Pierre Salinger to ask him if it was true that Caroline's hamster had died. This sort of thing would of course never happen now because the hamster would have its own Facebook fan page, updated hourly.
Obama is hitting another milestone this week. When Congress goes into recess it'll be a rough half-year marker for his presidency. And things have been looking pretty good. American influence is rising abroad, and at home nobody in the White House appears to be plotting to undermine our civil rights on a daily basis.
The economy's looking kind of stimulated. These things take time, but the “cash for clunkers” part of the plan seems to be working like a charm. Believe it or not, it turns out that Americans will buy a lot more cars if you pay them a bunch of money to do it.
The Senate is going to plow some more money into the clunker program, once it finishes Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. That debate has taken the concept of anticlimactic to a whole new level — although the Republican Jon Kyl's announcement that he's read the wise Latina speech “many times” did seem new, in a slightly disturbing way.
Still, even some of the Republicans who warned that she might become “untethered” after her elevation and start committing empathy admitted that Obama has picked an impressive candidate to become the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. Good work, White House.
And then there was the administration's first big coup of the week, Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea to rescue the two jailed American journalists. This goes to show how Hillary Clinton will surprise you every time. When it comes to the secretary of state's life story, I thought the one unbendable rule was that whenever he was most needed, Bill was going to be most unhelpful.
But there he was at the Burbank airport, delivering the journalists to their families and getting that nice hug from Al Gore.
We're still trying to figure out what North Korea wanted. Prestige? New weapons talks? Was the weird, ailing Kim Jong-il working out a succession plot on behalf of one of his sons? He has three, although everyone seems to have written off the oldest since he got picked up using a false passport to get to Tokyo Disneyland. Personally, I like the one who Newsweek says went to Swiss boarding school and wrote an essay about how he'd like to fight terrorism with Jean-Claude Van Damme.
But we'll probably wind up with the one who makes his sister call him “General Comrade.”
Since everyone running North Korea seems to be crazy, it might be safest to work under the assumption that the motives were crazy, too. Maybe the nation's elite were involved in a high-stakes scavenger hunt, with a list of items that included a 1979 almanac, a matchbook from an Indonesian nightclub, and a picture of Bill Clinton sitting next to the Dear Leader and looking like he was stuffed. Anyhow, Laura Ling and Euna Lee are home. Well done, everybody.
Once the Senate leaves town, the Obamas can go to Martha's Vineyard and relax. True, there's no health care bill yet, and members of Congress are getting yelled at about socialized medicine by people who appear to have been sitting in their attics since the anti-tax tea parties, listening for signs of alien aircraft. But on the bright side, they've finally got something to distract them from the president's birth certificate.
And — more good news! — the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is malfunctioning. You may remember that the collider was supposed to smash subatomic particles for super-advanced physics research. Chronic worriers claimed it might create a black hole that would suck up the universe.
Or take us back in time to the year when 8-year-old Barack Obama was responsible for Nixon's presidency, the institution of the draft and the popularity of “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies. Or deliver us to a parallel universe in which John McCain and Sarah Palin are running the country.
Now, as Dennis Overbye reported in The Times, there are problems with the wiring and the magnets. And while this is a loss for science, we're on black hole vacation.
Credit: The New York Times
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