As someone who has always looked first at the sports page each morning, 44 is not a new number to respect. 44 was Hank Aaron, who, in my opinion, faced a lot more difficulty and pressure in his quest to break Babe Ruth's record, than Barack Obama faced in his two year quest for the White House. The media served up softballs for candidate Obama, which was certainly not Aaron's experience when he came to bat. Obama has had more good fortune politically than any one politician deserves, starting with the collapse of his opponents in his US Senate race in 2004. But I give Obama credit for taking advantage of the opportunity afforded him the last two years- a billion dollars to campaign with, a fawning media, a huge desire for change in the electorate, and a financial crisis that hit seven weeks before the election. He ran a campaign that was disciplined, and stayed on message, and effectively used the paid staff and volunteers who worked for him in key states. Now the hard part starts. The stock market, which bets on futures, is not buying what Obama is so far selling. Today the market is down over 5%, and cratering into the close. . It is down over 10% since Obama's election on November 4th. There is another run on the big banks- this time Bank of America and Citicorp. To use an analogy of another 44, hall of famer Willie McCovey, to believe that Obama can accomplish a large fraction of what he laid out in his Inaugural Address today, would be a stretch.
One quick comment on the Inaugural address. Was it only me who noticed that Obama spoke of America as a nation of "Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and the non-believers", in that order? Usually it is Christians and Jews that get paired, and mentioned first. There are 2-3 times as many Jews as Muslims in America, so alphabetical order and group size do not explain Obama's order. I think this was a throwaway line to make nice to Muslims abroad who do not much like America (or Jews). It was not the only one in the speech. Personally, i do not think America needs to apologize to the Muslim world for our behavior. By my count, under Presidents Clinton and the two Bushes, we have liberated 5 Muslim states- Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq from the likes of Slobodan Milosovic, Saddam Hussein and Mullah Omar. For that we should get gratitude for the blood and treasure we sacrificed. The job is not done in all these places, as Obama will soon learn (campaigning is a lot easier than running the country.)
And finally this: President Obama has reached out to Republicans and particularly to John McCain since the election. He even said a few nice words about George Bush last week, which were little reported. It would have been nice for Obama to show he is big enough to mention Bush on the great stage today and repeat those words. He could have said something about the fact that Bush worked to keep the homeland safe for 7 years since 9/11, or to credit Bush for his work on Aids in Africa. Instead there were thinly veiled attacks on the Bush years. Even a low-life like Jimmy Carter acknowledged his bitter election foe Gerald Ford at his inauguration. it is in fact common to do this. But Obama ran as the anti-Bush, and I think he will need Bush to kick around some more when things do not go swimmingly out of the gate .