LAST CLARION CALL

1. It’s Tuesday, January 10, 2017. It’s the birthday of Donald Fagen and George Foreman.

2. Why, as a Northwestern alumnus, am I pleased by Clemson’s victory over Alabama in college football’s national championship game?

Because, not two months ago, the same Clemson team suffered its only loss of the season, a 43-42 defeat at the hands of University of Pittsburgh.

And, of course, that would be the Pittsburgh team that lost the Pinstripe Bowl to Northwestern 13 days ago.

Forget the fact that the ‘Cats lost six other games this season. By my reckoning, we’re eight points better than Clemson and 12 better than Alabama.

At least, as a Wildcat fan, I’d like to think so.

3. In a way, I’m kind of surprised Jeff Sessions is on his best behavior at today’s confirmation hearing.

Trumpsters such as Sessions haven’t previously cared much about what the people who don’t agree with them thought.

But here is the Alabama senator, looking to be Trump’s attorney general, denying he’s ever been a racist and, as my former colleague Gregory Wallace at CNN reports, pledging to recuse himself in any witch hunt investigation of Hillary Clinton.

Lots of civil rights groups staunchly oppose Sessions. But the deck is stacked. It’ll take a major faux pas for Sessions not to be confirmed – that’s the best hope of a contentious hearing. And he knows that.

4. So President Obama’s farewell speech is tonight in Chicago.

Most of his supporters find the occasion sad, and that’s understandable. Obama has, on balance, been a terrific president – despite facing a withering barrage of opposition that was often based on his race.

But what’s especially great about this man has been his empathy for the people he was elected to serve — and his ability to express that empathy better, perhaps, than anyone who ever held the office.

(Note: We don’t have a tape of Lincoln. But no one ever would have thought Obama the second best speaker at any event, unlike Lincoln; at the Gettysburg battlefield consecration, everybody went to hear Edward Everett.)

I think I’m curious to hear whether or not Obama sets himself up to be the guy Americans run to when Trump pisses them off. Will Obama leave something oratorically that makes him the shadow president after noon on Jan. 20?

He’s only 55 years ago, 15 years younger than the guy succeeding him. And their mutual contempt isn’t any secret.

Plus much of what Obama accomplished is at great peril. I’m betting the Republicans ignore the warnings of some of their own and trash this incredible accomplishment. It’s their Holy Grail. It doesn’t matter who it hurts – they perceive that their people hate it, and that’s their ticket.

So listen carefully tonight to what Barack Obama says in his last scheduled address to the nation. It will be done beautifully. It will sing. And we’ll find out if it means more than just a valedictory.

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