Monday, December 29, 2014

John Baer | Ed speaks brr-iefly to launch Term 2

TWO IMPRESSIVE things about Gov. Ed's second inaugural address?

He gave it without a topcoat despite biting winds on a 30-degree (real feel) day.

And it was short. Just about 10 minutes.

(First lady/Federal Judge Midge tells me he wore no thermals or long johns under his suit: "We had an overcoat at the ready, but it wasn't that cold.")

Other highlights?

Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney, 86, a friend of Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll, sat on the dais, front row, and appeared a candidate for cryogenic processing until someone, mercifully, brought him a coat and scarf.

Speaking of garb, Midge's black brimmed hat looked very similar to Rabbi Solomon Isaacson's. And Knoll's blue turban-like headgear looked like a seat cover from the Senate chamber.

There were similarities to Ed's first inaugural four years ago.

Midge swore him in again. Blind (now-teenaged) Timmy Kelly gave another stirring rendition of the National Anthem.

And there were differences.

It wasn't as cold as Jan. 21, 2003 (then a windy 25 degrees). There was, typical for second inaugurals, a much smaller crowd (officials moved folks from back areas to fill up front-and-center seats).

And this time the swearing-in went off like clockwork and was over in record time (something like 23 minutes).

Last time, it started late, ran late and didn't follow the scheduled order.

This year's speech?

I'd give it a not-half-bad.

Delivered from a riser on the back steps of the Capitol, it was a combination of the banal and the bold.

It began by noting that when the guv first took office, the state was "in crisis," which I'm sure Tom Ridge would have enjoyed had he showed up yesterday.

(Speaking of which, I didn't see the speaker emeritus either.)

It predictably recounted first-term achievements, which is to say it rehashed his re-election campaign stump speech: $1.8 billion in new spending for education; a $3 billion economic stimulus program; more health-care coverage for kids; an expanded drug-prescription program for seniors, cuts in government costs, and a $625 million investment in the environment.

This litany was met with scattered, polite, glove-muffled applause.

It included the mandatory quoting of a famous political figure, in this case FDR. Something about working to continue progress.

But then the guv promised what we media types call an ambitious agenda - to be offered within 30 days.

This includes health-care reforms (also promised in his first inaugural) to be detailed today, and new investments in education, alternative-energy development (watch this one, it might be his ticket to a national Democratic administration) and transportation.

Then, because "I agree with the voters" (as if some politicians don't), he called for political reforms: a new open-records law; a limit to campaign contributions, better citizen access to the legislative process, merit selection of judges, term limits, reduction in the size of the Legislature and a citizens' commission on redistricting.

Regrettably, there was no mention of moving up the date of the state's presidential primary so Pennsylvania actually has a say in national leadership.

But if he's able to get some or even any of this stuff done, it'll be far more impressive than giving speeches standing in the cold.

Oh, and two more highlights:

Rabbi Isaacson, the guv's rabbi at Congregation Beth Solomon in the Northeast, delivered the line of the day while offering the benediction.

Ed, he said, doesn't come too often to confess, but only because "I don't have a week to devote just to him."

And last night's ball was covered by a national TV network. Appropriately for this governor, it was the Food Network. *

Send e-mail to baerj@phillynews.com.

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