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from Jack Shafer:

Does anyone actually believe in a ‘second-term curse’?

Just as farmers plant and reap with the seasons, political journalists consult the calendar for the best time to scatter seed and harvest, with second-term inaugurations being the preferred juncture to deploy temple-tapping discussions of the "second-term curse," the notion that special doom awaits any modern president who wins the White House a second time.

Like most predictions, this one is for suckers. To begin with, the definition of a second-term curse has become so elastic that anything from a few policy setbacks to death can be interpreted as fulfillment of the curse. Even the definition of a second term has been debased by those who call vice presidents who complete a dead president's term and win one on their own — Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman  and Lyndon Johnson — two-termers.

Also, as David Greenberg recently argued in The New Republic, the audit of supposedly failed second terms usually neglects to mention the triumphs, such as President Bill Clinton's foreign policy successes in Kosovo and Northern Ireland in his second term, President George W. Bush's winding down of the Iraq war in his second and President Ronald Reagan's retreat from "Strangelovean apocalypticism" that created a soft-landing place for the collapsing Soviet empire.

Sifting Nexis, we learn that most of the talking heads and writers contemplating the curse in the past couple of weeks have done so to refute it. Writing in The Atlantic, legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar points out that "the idea of a second-term curse fails to account for basic probability," that the curse is probably more about the regression to the mean than anything else. At Bloomberg View, Al Hunt rejects the curse in his first paragraph. Historian Douglas Brinkley has debunked the curse as mythology in multiple venues in the past week (CBS This Morning, WSJ Live, the New York Times and CNN), as did Doris Kearns Goodwin on Meet the Press and The Today Show ("I think we've made too much of second-term curses").

from Tales from the Trail:

Thirty-two years after leaving office, Jimmy Carter gets big cheer

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Jimmy Carter got a big hand and roar of approval from a festive and perhaps somewhat charitable crowd on Monday at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Thirty-two years after leaving the White House as a defeated one-term president, the mostly Democratic gathering screamed approval for Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, as they arrived for the ceremony just outside the U.S. Capitol.

from Tales from the Trail:

Ninety-two-year-old “Tuskegee Airman” salutes racial progress, Obama

WASHINGTON - They were treated like second-class citizens in World War Two - but overcame racial prejudice to emerge as bona fide heroes.

And on Monday, these black former "Tuskegee Airmen" were back in the front row for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.

from Tales from the Trail:

McConnell: New Obama term offers divided Washington new start

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U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who drew fire in 2010 when he declared that his top goal was to deny President Barack Obama re-election, quickly congratulated the president on Monday as Obama began four more years in office.

Within minutes of Obama's second inaugural address, McConnell issued a written statement expressing a willingness to take a new shot at working together.

from Afghan Journal:

Will voters in your town believe Karzai is worth dying for?

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Karzai reviews honour guard ahead of his inauguration at his sprawling Kabul palace on Nov. 19
In his inauguration speech on Thursday, Afghan president Hamid Karzai promised to combat corruption and appoint competent ministers, heading off the growing chorus of criticism from the West that his government is crooked and inept. Unsurprisingly, the Western dignitaries in the audience declared that they liked what they heard.

We predicted ahead of time that we would hear positive words about Karzai this week. After all, Western governments need to convince their own voters back home that the veteran Afghan leader’s government is worth sending their sons and daughters to die for. This autumn’s election debacle made Karzai look bad – a U.N.-backed probe found that nearly a third of votes cast for him were fake -- but now that’s all over and the West needs him to look as reliable as possible.

from Afghan Journal:

Can the West salvage Karzai’s reputation?

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karzai

That sure was fast.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told American TV audiences that Afghan President Hamid Karzai needed to take steps to fight graft, including setting up a new anti-corruption task force, if he wants to keep U.S. support. Less than 24 hours later, there was Karzai’s interior minister at a luxury hotel in Kabul -- flanked by the U.S. and British ambassadors -- announcing exactly that. A new major crimes police task force, anti-corruption prosecution unit and special court will be set up, at least the third time that Afghan authorities and their foreign backers have launched special units to tackle corruption.

There are just a couple of days left before Karzai is inaugurated for a new term as president. Perhaps a few more days after that, U.S. President Barack Obama will announce whether he is sending tens of thousands of additional troops to join the 68,000 Americans and 40,000 NATO-led allies fighting there.

from Photographers' Blog:

Camera in the crowd

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It was an early wake up call for Barack Obama’s inauguration day, and I was assigned to photograph the enormous crowds on the National Mall in Washington. I left the office with New York City based photographer Shannon Stapleton, only to find out the crowds of people would prevent us from entering the National Mall. Even without media accreditation the amount of people trying to gain access to the National Mall became a giant obstacle.

After trying to gain access at all of the entrance points we realized that it may not be possible to get in and do our jobs. Stress levels quickly rose as we realized that our assignment would not be easy, or even possible. We were stuck in the streets with impatient crowds with all of our gear and computers strapped to our shoulders.

from FaithWorld:

GUESTVIEW: Amazing Grace — a rabbi’s view of the inaugural prayer service

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The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The author, Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, is a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and author of the novel A Delightful Compendium of Consolation.

By Burton L. Visotzky

On Wednesday, I went to church. It seemed right that on the morning after President Barack Obama's historic inauguration as the 44th President of the United States I should pray for his and our success in the years ahead. We are a nation in crisis, depleted in so many ways by the last eight years. On the Tuesday of the inauguration, I stood with a million other Americans on the Mall in Washington, watching and cheering the transfer of power. The air was frigid, but filled with hope. We stood just behind the Capitol reflecting pool - far from the rostrum, but embedded in the great, diverse mass of people who make up America. Next to us were folks from Augusta, Georgia, who drawled their discomfort when George Bush was booed. On our other side were Washingtonians - African-Americans who proudly declared that on this day we were not black or white, but all of us were silver (the color of our tickets to the event).

from Tales from the Trail:

Michael J. Fox hopeful on Obama’s commitment to stem cell research

At an inauguration event at the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C., actor Michael J. Fox spoke with Reuters reporter John McCrank about his hopes for the Obama administration.

Fox, afflicted with Parkinson's Disease, expects a very productive "four-to-eight years", saying Obama "is a fan of science and intellectual curiosity" and is committed to moving forward with research.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Which is the real live Obama?

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Blog Guy, did you go to the inauguration yesterday?

You bet. See this crowd shot? I'm behind those people. It was an amazing experience, and I got some nice shots of the new President.

You're a huge imbecile! That first one is cardboard, the second is wax, and the third is just some Indonesian guy who LOOKS like Barack Obama.

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