SWEAR IT AGAIN!

Following Tuesday’s Official Swearing-In and Wednesday’s Swearing-In Unplugged, the White House this morning announced the swearing-in schedule for the rest of the month.
January 22nd: Swearing in En Espanol
January 23rd: Swearing In
: Dance Floor Mix
January 24th: Backwards Day nI gniraewS
January 25th: Swearing In All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet
January 26th: Swearing In Bat Day: All fans 16 and under will receive an official Swearing In bat courtesy of Ball Park Franks
January 27th:
Swearing In Luau
January 28th: Hump Day Swearing In
January 29th: Swearing In Cool Ranch Flavor
January 30th:
Freaky Friday Swearing In: president and chief justice change places
Janaury 31st: Swearing In: The Musical
February 1st: Super Bowl Sunday Super Swearing-In

“The schedule for the rest of the term will be posted soon,” said Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. “Just give us a little time.”

HAIL TO THE CHIEF!

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”

HE KEPT US SAFE?

Here’s Fareed Zakaria, writing in the Washington Post today about the line we keep hearing that “at least Bush kept us safe”:

That has become the mantra to explain why George W. Bush — contrary to the view of the American public, people abroad and historians — is actually a great man. . . .And his chief piece of evidence for this claim is, of course, that “he has kept us safe.”

Let me first acknowledge that the administration’s policies for weakening al-Qaeda, like those of dozens of other countries, have been intelligent and effective. But “keeping us safe” is still a twisted way to judge a presidency. . . .

Bush’s claim that he kept us safe is mostly true. I say mostly because, of course, he did not keep the United States safe on Sept. 11, 2001, nine months into his presidency. And while it’s not right to blame Bush for that day, there is certainly evidence that the administration ignored some serious warnings about al-Qaeda, seeing it as an unimportant “nonstate” actor. The administration’s focus from the start was on the rogue states — Iraq, Iran, North Korea and others.

But certainly, post-Sept. 11, Bush has kept us safe. Just as Jacques Chirac kept France safe and Gerhard Schroeder kept Germany safe. Tony Blair, alas, failed this test. He did not keep Britain safe despite tough policies, an impressive set of counterterrorism agencies and much hard work. My point is that it may not tell us much that a leader presided over a period with no terrorist attacks.

Everyone who follows football knows that there are games the quarterback wins for you, and that there are games you win despite the quarterback. We don’t know enough to say that what Bush did kept us safe. We don’t really know what was out there. We don’t know that what Bush did would have been any different than any other president would have done. And we surely don’t know if a different approach would have kept us safer. All we know is that we weren’t attacked. Good. Thank God. If Bush was so indispensible to this effort, why are we letting him go?

To read the rest of Zakaria’s  hard-headed, unsentimental, well-argued article, click here: He Kept Us Safe, but….

RICH LIKE HIM

At the Wedding Space on East 38th Street last night, Little Brown threw a great party for Ryan D’Agostino in honor of his new book Rich Like Them. It turned into a night for me to run into Esquire staffers, ex-Esquire staffers, and ex-colleagues of mine, who were sometimes one and the same people. Above, my ex-Jungle colleague Ryan (left in both pix) hangs with his ex-Details colleague Bill Shapiro, now of Time Inc.,  who (I believe) was running Time’s custom publishing unit while I was laboring to produce some pieces for them. (I included the photo on the left because it caught Bill in the seldom-portrayed act of rearranging the atoms on his face.) Below left, the natty Esquire editor-in-chief David Granger (right), about to jet off to Milan for the fashion shows,  poses with my former Entertainment Weekly colleague A.J. Jacobs, now of Esquire, an author of the best-selling A Year of Living Biblically (I’m so jealous). A.J. is apparently in the midst of a year of dressing, uh, casually. On the right, Fran Kessler, Esquire‘s Executive Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief (ret.) sidles up Esquire‘s longtime food critic par excellance John Mariani, both former Esquire colleagues of mine. (Sorry for the fuzziness, folks–I really should read the Coolpix manual.)

CLIP ‘N’ SAVE: THE TOP 25 BUSHISMS

Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg, the tireless archivist of our still-current president’s recurrent mangling of the English language, has compiled his list of the Top 25 Bushisms. when you think there’s nothing you’ll miss about Bush, remember these.

1. “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

2. “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.”—Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000

3. “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”—Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

4. “Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across the country.”—Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

5. “Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican.”—declining to answer reporters’ questions at the Summit of the Americas, Quebec City, Canada, April 21, 2001 Continue reading “CLIP ‘N’ SAVE: THE TOP 25 BUSHISMS”

TRYING TOO HARD TO PROVE TOO MUCH

From my review of Russ Baker’s FAMILY OF SECRETS: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America,

Halfway through the concluding chapter of Family of Secrets, Russ Baker mentions, not entirely modestly, that when a colleague heard some of the things he would be disclosing in his almost 600-page book about the Bush family and its connections to John F. Kennedy‘s assassination, Watergate and many other pivotal events, the colleague “suggested, only half in jest, that the book be called ‘Everything You Thought You Knew Is Wrong.’ “

Well, any investigative journalist whose credo isn’t “Everything You Thought Is Wrong” should probably pack it in. No quality, not even doggedness, is more important than the ability to embrace the belief that, despite what everyone else thinks, only the reporter really knows the truth. But with this big challenge comes a big burden of proof. As history’s tide rolls out, we may eventually discover that everything we think we know about the George Bushes, père et fils, is wrong and that everything Baker alleges about them in his book — their secrets, their labors on behalf of powerful, self-serving interests — is right on the money. Despite strenuous efforts, however, Baker doesn’t prove it here.

I wish I liked this book more, but I didn’t.

SITUATIONS WANTED

Dear Mr. Cheney:
Thank you for your recent letter inquiry about a position with the Gallup organization. As one of the nation’s leading polling firms, we are always on the lookout for individuals with talent and experience, and your resume is outstanding. Moreover, you have correctly observed that the reluctance of people to take our surveys is a sizable factor in the cost of our services. However, we have concluded that classifying these people as “enemy respondents,’’ taking them into custody, and flying them to undisclosed locations for a program of enhanced interrogation is unlikely to result in meaningful savings, and as such we do not seen sufficient benefit in retaining you to manage such a program at this time. Please be advised that we will keep your resume on file.
Sincerely yours,

Dear Mr. Tenent,
Just to let you know, I followed up your suggestion and contacted the commissioner’s office, and Mr. Stern’s assistant put me in touch with the vice president of in-game marketing. I told him about t he video you made where you shout “It’s a slam dunk, Mr. President!’’, and your idea of showing on the scoreboards at NBA games to rev up the crowds whenever a player dunks. Frankly, he seemed a little bit lukewarm to the idea, but he didn’t entirely say no. Here’s a question: Is it possible that you ever said to the president  “It’s Shaqtastic! ’? Let me know.
Sincerely,
Continue reading “SITUATIONS WANTED”

LOOKING BACK AT FDR’S FIRST 100 DAYS

Nobody can predict with any certainty how the first 100 days of Barack Obama’s presidency is going to turn out, but the last time the country decided to play host to a major financial crisis, the new president and cabinet changed the face of America. In his new book Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America, Adam Cohen, my former colleague at Time, now a member of the editorial board of The New York Times, tells the story of the remarkable men and the even more remarkable woman (Frances Perkins, the Secretary of Labor, the first female Cabinet secretary) who in those first months began to turn the country away from the depression.  Here Adam takes a few questions.

Three quarters of a century have passed since the Depression, and fewer and fewer people have a first hand memory of the situation. Remind us–how bad was it, and how ready was America for dramatic change?
As tough as times are now, they pale compared to 1933.  When FDR took office, the unemployment rate was 25 percent.  The banking system had collapsed — many banks had failed, and every bank in the country had been ordered closed. In rural areas, farmers were leaving the land because it did not pay to grow crops.  In the cities, there were breadlines and unemployed men selling apples on street corners.  There were enormous “Hoovervilles” — shanty towns built by the poor — in parks and under bridges throughout the country.  My book begins with a chilling, but not uncommon scene — unemployed people  descending on a garbage dump in Chicago, and rummaging for food.

Roosevelt surrounded himself with talented and dedicated people like Frances Perkins, Henry Wallace and Harry Hopkins, and gave them a lot of leeway to devise policy. Were they the unsung heroes of the New Deal?

Absolutely.  FDR was a great president, no doubt about it.  And the New Deal would not have been possible without his charismatic leadership and keen political sense. But much of the substance of what was accomplished, however, we owe to the people around FDR. Frances Perkins was a driving force behind many of the most important New Deal programs.  During the first Hundred Days, she pushed for large-scale public works programs to put the unemployed to work.  She prevailed, and many families survived the Depression because of these jobs.  Later, she headed the committee that developed Social Security. Henry Wallace drafted the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which rescued the farm belt.  And Harry Hopkins drew up the plan for the first federal welfare program, and ended up administering it.  The program was critical to helping unemployed people survive the hard times. These were brilliant, idealistic people, and they permanently changed America for the better. Continue reading “LOOKING BACK AT FDR’S FIRST 100 DAYS”

SNOTTY AND SMART

My eagle-eyed friend  John Connolly spotted this complimentary comment about Spy in, of all places, The Tube City Almanac of McKeesport, Pennsylvania:

With My Little Eye: One of my purchases during the recent Book Country outing was a history of the late, lamented Spy magazine called Spy: The Funny Years. I started to page through it in the store, wound up reading part of it as I stood in the aisle, and then bought it and read it cover-to-cover in two long sittings.

It’s hard to describe Spy, which thrived from the late 1980s until roughly 1991 or 1992. I can remember discovering it in the supermarket when I was 13 or 14 — too old for Mad and not old, boring or pretentious enough for the New Yorker (I’m still not two out of the three). I

Spy was snotty and disrespectful to people in power (and these were the Reagan years, after all), dismissive of wealthy Wall Street tycoons during the height of the “greed-is-good” era (it mocked Donald Trump and Ivan Boesky long before their disgrace) and loved to pull down the pants of Hollywood’s best and brightest (Spy took on people like Bill Cosby and Arnold Schwarznegger when they were major stars). Even if I didn’t care about many of the people Spy went after (how many teen-age nerds from McKeesport knew who Mike Ovitz was?) I could appreciate that Spy spoke truth to power.

Yes, there was an annoying Ivy League preciousness to Spy — swanky New York cocktail parties were the center of the universe, Spy‘s writers were the smartest kids in the room, and people who lived in places like Dayton and Minneapolis and (by God) McKeesport were amusing bumpkins — but there was also fearlessness.

And Spy worked crazy hard: Its articles were meticulously reported. It was the first (and as far as I know, only) publication to expose Bohemian Grove, the notorious secretive California resort for conservative politicians and industrialists, and I can still remember its takedown of Wackenhut, a private security company who critics alleged had engaged in covert U.S. intelligence operations years before anyone heard of Blackwater.

I honestly hadn’t thought about Spy in about 15 years. . . .Reading Spy: The Funny Years was like reuniting with a long, lost (somewhat annoying) friend. A few reviews on the Internet suggest that Spy is now a hopelessly dated artifact of the 1980s, like Jams or K-cars. Yes, many of the subjects that Spy covered breathlessly (Ivana Trump, anyone?) are now trivia questions at best, but what stunned me was how fresh the magazine still looks, and how vibrant the writing remains. Websites like Wonkette have captured some of the tone of Spy, but they don’t do the digging, they’re snotty without being smart, and they just don’t look as good. In fact, I can’t think of a single magazine or website that combines that quality of reporting and attitude.

OH, DARE, JOE, DARE!

“Indeed,” says Joe Klein of Time magazine, “as the weeks have passed since the election, I’ve felt — as an urban creature myself — less restricted, less defensive. Empowered, almost. Is it possible that, as a nation, we’re shedding our childlike, rural innocence and becoming more mature, urban, urbane . . . dare I say it, sophisticated?”