No more walks to church, big guy

st-johns-church-washington-dcBy this time, the professionals in the mainstream press are starting to settle down, which means that the unrepentant shivers that ran up their legs, into their spins and into the depths of their souls are starting to fade just a bit. Soon, most scribes will get down to the hard business of criticizing the new administration — from the cultural left.

But before we move on, I feel an urgent need to praise something. Thus, let’s flash back to one of the most moving, symbolic moments in the inauguration rites earlier this week.

As a journalist, I am fond of those hard, factual, symbolic details that skilled journalists use to lock a story into the memory of an attentive reader. While most of the Washington Post coverage of the ceremony adopted the omnipresent Hurrah. America. Has. Been. Saved. Tone, there was a quiet story by Eli Saslow and Michael A. Fletcher that cut inside the details of the day for an unforgettable glimpse of what the events must have felt like for the new First Family.

You see, in the past, the man who is now President Barack Obama like to clear his mind by taking short refreshing walks. You know, step outside and get some fresh air. Once upon a time, that probably included a cigarette, but not anymore.

On the first day of his life as the 44th president of the United States, Obama needed to travel three blocks from his temporary home to a church service. The trip required 20 Secret Service agents, a 14-car motorcade, precautionary gas masks and a specially armored Cadillac limousine.

That wake-up call at 8:47 a.m. set the tone for the rest of Obama’s day and foreshadowed at least the next four years of his life. Simple trips will never again be simple; personal space will no longer belong to him. … He planned to be at St. John’s Church on Lafayette Square at 9 a.m., but his motorcade started making preparations for the trip at 7:45. A small army of local police officers and Secret Service agents guarded the back door to Blair House on Pennsylvania Avenue, which itself was closed off by a large metal fence and protected by two security checkpoints.

Wait, there’s one more set of killer details:

When Obama walked out of Blair House yesterday, he was left with about 10 feet of open air that still belonged to him. Two Secret Service agents ushered him to the limousine, opened his door and closed it quickly behind him. Obama disappeared into a car referred to as “The Beast.”

Built especially for Obama by General Motors, the car is reportedly equipped with eight-inch-thick armor-plated doors and pump-action shotguns. It contains night-vision cameras, Kevlar-reinforced tires and tear gas cannons. It has been environmentally sealed against chemical attacks and can generate an independent oxygen supply. And, just in case, the Beast pulled away from Blair House escorted by police motorcycles, Secret Service agents and a counterassault team.

It arrived at the church 90 seconds later.

The content of the private service eventually leaked out into the roomier confines of the web, which is perfect for these kinds of details. The main story included only a snippet of Pentecostal superstar T.D. Jakes’ homily:

“The problems are mighty, and the solutions are not simple,” Jakes said. “And everywhere you turn, there will be a critic waiting to attack every decision that you make. But you are all fired up, sir, and you are ready to go. And this nation goes with you. God goes with you.”

Later, Religion News Service added many more details — which is why we need this kind of wire service staffed by religion-beat professionals. Click here to go check out the four lessons that Jakes pulled out of Daniel 3:19.

RNS also added a direct quote that fleshed out the nonsectarian punchline that Jakes added to that “God goes with you” quotation:

“I say to you as my son who is here today, my 14-year-old son — he probably would not quote scripture. He probably would use Star Trek instead, and so I say, ‘May the force be with you.’ ”

Of course, that’s a “Star Wars” quote, but we get the point.

P.S. Who else was in that private service? Click here for additional commentary on Jakes, etc., from the mainline left. I mean, this was held inside an Episcopal sanctuary, a cornerstone in the official, unofficial, non-established, established faith of the Washington, D.C., elite.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jerry

    From what stylebook was PEOTUS derived? It read like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

  • Harris

    More interesting was that NPR’s Don Gagne initial reports called the service a “mass.” Now that was interesting.

  • http://areformedcatholicinthepcusa.blocspot.com Reformed Catholic

    Sadly, the days of Truman heading out for a brisk morning walk with 4 or 5 Secret Service agents tagging along are long gone.


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