Are there enough seats in Obama's big tent?

January 19, 2009|By SUSAN REIMER

When Barack Obama enters the Oval Office for the first time tomorrow, the "In" basket on his desk will already be piled high.

The new president has a couple of wars and an economy in a tailspin to deal with. If that were not enough, just about every constituency - from ecologists to dressmakers - seems to have a stake in his presidency. And they are all convinced they have Obama's ear.

An analysis by PolitiFact shows that Obama made 510 promises while running for president - twice as many as George Bush and Bill Clinton - and the fact-checking Web site for the St. Petersburg Times is going to keep track of every one.

FOR THE RECORD - Susan Reimer wrote in her column yesterday that President-elect Barack Obama's new District of Columbia neighbors hoped he would promote their right to vote in presidential elections. Registered voters in Washington already can vote in presidential elections; they cannot vote in congressional elections.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

Obama promised everything from ending the war in Iraq and cutting taxes to establishing programs to help animals survive global warming, according to the Web site. No wonder everybody thinks they have a piece of this guy.

Whatever concrete changes Obama is able to make, the mere fact of who he is is likely to change the cultural landscape in this country.

Comedian Bill Cosby wants black families to take note of the fact that the Obamas are an intact family with an involved father.

And First Wives World, a social network for divorced women, says the inauguration of a man who came from a broken home and was raised by his grandparents will change the perception of "nontraditional" families for the better.

The book publishing industry, suffering through its own hard times, is thrilled with the fact that the new president is so often photographed with a book - history, fiction and poetry - resulting in an immediate spike in sales.

At the National Book Awards, emcee Eric Bogosian, a playwright, said Obama's election was "great news for everyone here tonight because our new president is, in the broadest sense of the world, a reader."

And the new president's brainy reputation means "smart is the new cool," according to Arne Duncan, his nominee for education secretary, and the Washington press corps has dubbed some of Obama's appointees "hot nerds."

"Science, science, science and science," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when NPR asked her to describe Obama's stimulus package. That means the science guys will be happy with the new president, everybody from the new energy guys to the stem cell guys.

Quincy Jones wants him to name an arts czar, and his new D.C. neighbors want him to give the District the right to vote in presidential elections. College football fans want him to replace the Bowl Championship Series with a playoff.

The dress his wife, Michelle, wore on The View flew off the racks at White House/Black Market, and she is seen as the trendsetter, if not the savior, of the American fashion industry. And what she wears for the inauguration will be remembered long after we forget what he says.

Portuguese water dog or labradoodle? Let's hope no dreadful puppy farms emerge after the family chooses a puppy.

The Obamas enjoy regular "date nights" and are frequent restaurantgoers. Washington's maitres d' are drooling. ABC, "Anything But Chardonnay" will soon be replaced by BDC, "Barack Drinks Chardonnay." Kendall Jackson will be the new Diet Coke.

Newspapers and networks that cover the president are wondering if they should send more minorities to the White House press room. Whoever they send better be in shape. Presidential pool reporters, who have had to jog and ride mountain bikes, will now have to play pickup basketball.

Practitioners of feng shui want him to rearrange the White House furniture to redirect its energy flow and make it more harmonious.

Speaking of balancing energy, Obama had dinner with George Will and a bunch of conservative pundits one day and then visited with the other side at The Washington Post the next.

Chef Alice Waters wants the White House to go organic, and food writer Michael Pollan wants him to implement a sustainable agricultural policy. But Obama ordered a chili half-smoke at Ben's Chili House with Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty.

And while Obama has said he will revoke the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the military, he invited megachurch pastor and gay marriage opponent Rick Warren to deliver a prayer at the inauguration.

Of course, he also asked Episcopalian Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is gay, to deliver an invocation at the inaugural celebration yesterday at the Lincoln Memorial.

In politics, they call this the "big tent." Everybody gets invited inside.

Let's hope it isn't a circus tent.

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