“A dishy affair” is how the White House’s official site described the president’s first luncheon.
At precisely noon on Inauguration Day, the home page of the president (whitehouse.gov) switched over from pictures like George W. Bush nuzzling up to a soldier in the Oval Office to an extravagantly wide portrait of Barack Obama. And then the Internet's head exploded.
Blog bless America
Given Obama's Internet prowess, it's not surprising that he's included a blog on the new site. It's unfortunate but understandable that posts do not presently allow for comments. But in its first post, Macon Phillips, the director of new media for the White House, wrote: "We will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it."
To do this, most bloggers agreed that whitehouse.gov should continue the smart, high-traffic public policy forum on Obama's transition site, change.gov. This was where users could submit policy ideas and vote on the best - a PolicyWiki of sorts.
In some respects, though, the Obama team seems to have forgone interactivity. The Bush administration's Ask The White House section, a real-time chat forum for users to pose questions to federal officials, has been replaced with Office Of Public Liaison, a field that fits messages of only 500 characters (three and a half Tweets).
Bloggers do appreciate, though, the addition of the Creative Commons licence for third-party content.
Obama's pet cause
In addition to the extra-wide photo slide of Obama on the home page, the site is an Imperial ton more graphical and informative than before. For instance, John F. Kennedy had a pet pony named Macaroni. This tidbit can be found in the Presidential Pets photo gallery.
Other attention on O Day focused on outfits. Michelle Obama wore a stunning sparkling yellow dress designed by Isabel Toledo, a relatively unknown Cuban-American New York designer. In no time, fashion bloggers made her name household. Not to be outshone, inauguration performer Aretha Franklin wore a sparkling oversized-bow hat. It also went viral, but for other reasons (mainly ridiculousness).
A server fails at lunch?
According to the official inauguration site (inaugural.senate.gov), Obama's first presidential luncheon was a hearty one, featuring molasses-whipped sweet potatoes, duck breast with cherry chutney, herb-roasted pheasant and, for dessert, cinnamon apple sponge cake. The menu and recipes for each dish were available online, but on Tuesday around lunchtime that portion of the site crashed. With intense interest in Obama's food preferences - he's on the record as liking chili and brunch - the servers were likely unable to answer so many requests for the cherry chutney ingredients.