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Opening Arguments

Obama Watch

Other sites will give you all the political trivia, such as the inaugeration and the war on terror and how many billions the president will want to spend on any given day. But you should check here periodically for the really important Obama Watch stuff. On the negative side today, the president intends to commit an atrocity, and if he truly wants to connect with ordinary Americans, he should reconsider:

Obama's stated ambition to replace the White House bowling alley with a basketball court puts an official stamp on a long-term cultural shift. Football, the ascendant national pastime since at least the late 1950s, has been eclipsed by basketball. And the tedious tradition of White House athleticism has turned a new corner.

[. . .]

The president's dismantling of the Nixon-installed bowling alley may resemble sour grapes from a scrub who famously rolled a 37 at Altoona's Pleasant Valley lanes before the 2008 Pennsylvania primary. It is more than that. John F. Kennedy's inspiration in the 1960 election was to see through the truism that baseball was still the national pastime.

I take no position as to the merits of basketball or football or baseball as the national pastime. Fads come and go, and all such sports involve spoiled athletes paid enormous sums of money to perform for fat, couch-potato wannabes. But bowling is a participatory sport open to Americans of varying skill and commitment. Exactly what is Obama trying to symbolize by removing the bowling lane? If Red State and Blue State can come together, as the president seems to believe, and if white and black can move to a post-racial America, cannot bowling and basketball coexist? Put the damn court someplace else and leave the lane alone, or else don't even think about inviting me to the White House, mister.

On the other hand, the man does seem to enjoy a good chili dog, and he certainly knows how to eat one. You don't get prissy and have your napkin ever ready to wipe the stains from your face. You just light into it, etiquette be damned. I don't know if he plans to have such fare on the regular First Family menu (with two young daughers, there at least ought to be a lot of pizza), but if he does, you know where such food is good? At the bowling alley!

Now, one I'm neutral on. One of the Obamaphobes over at The Corner, noting that Obama is forever going on about the "the enormity" of the problems we face and "the enormity" of the task he's undertaking, says, "I wish the president-elect would learn the meaning of the word 'enormity.' " It is true that in recent linguistic history (not always, but recently), "enormity" has carried a negative moral judgment, as in "the enormity of Hitler's evil"; it hasn't been merely another word for gigantic or enormous. But it's been used that way so often that dictionaries have taken note of it -- it's the No. 3 meaning now at Random House. Words change. Get over it.