Then and Now: A Lot Can Change in Four Years

Inauguration Day is as good a time as any to look back at four years ago, when a younger Obama officially took over a country that was happy for Chris Brown and Rihanna, rooting for Anne Hathaway, and enduring an otherwise pretty terrible January.

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With Barack Obama being (ceremonially) sworn in as the 44th president (again) at the 57th presidential inauguration, it's as good a time as any to look back at four years ago, when a younger, less wrinkly, more stoic Obama officially took over a country that was happy for Chris Brown and Rihanna, rooting for Anne Hathaway, and enduring an otherwise pretty terrible January. Here's to four years ago—see if you can spot the differences:

Obama, Just Look at Him: 

The Crowd: 

2009: 1.8 million

2013: 800,000 expected

The Economy

Undercutting the enthusiasm from Barack Obama's election victory and attendance record-setting inauguration was the sobering reality that the economy was pretty much in freefall. On February 6, we learned employers had shed 589,000 jobs in January, marking the the biggest monthly drop since 1974. And the unemployment skyrocketed to (what was then an astronomical) 7.6 percent—a 16-year high at the time. "About half of the 3.6 million jobs lost since the start of the recession have been lost in the past three months, indicating the economic slowdown is far from over," reported the U.S. News & World Report, one of several media properties that wouldn't escape the recession as print publications. This ugly graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows just how bad the unemployment rate during Obama's inauguration was and how much worse it became after:

Today, it feels like we're in a better place but our unemployment rate is actually worse than it was four years ago as it hovers at 7.8 percent. The big difference is that we're looking at 7.8 percent from the other side—a side that saw the rate rise as high as 10 percent in October 2009 and remain above 9 percent for all of 2010.

The Benediction and Proposition 8

Obama's inaugural team chose Rick Warren to lead the benediction at his inauguration in 2009. At the time Rick Warren, the pastor of Southern California's massive Saddleback Church, was most of the visible faces of the megachurches that had blossomed across suburbia through the Bush years. Obama's choice to include him in his inauguration was one of his earliest attempts to bridge the partisan divide that he had bemoaned during his campaign. But on the same night that Obama was elected, California's Proposition 8—whose constitutionality the Supreme Court is expected to decide this June—passed,  banning same-sex marriages in that state.  Warren, who supported Prop. 8, was at the center of that controversy, comparing gay marriage, as Politico's Ben Smith and Nia-Malika Henderson reported, to legalizing incest, child abuse, and polygamy.

This year, Obama's inauguration team initially selected Pastor Louie Giglio withdrew, who had professed support for conversion therapy for homosexuals, for the ceremony before Giglio withdrew. "The only way out of a homosexual lifestyle, the only way out of a relationship that has been engrained over years of time, is through the healing power of Jesus ... it’s not easy to change, but it is possible to change ... " Giglio said in sermons uncovered by Think Progress. Giglio withdrew on January 10 and was replaced by gay-friendly pastor Rev. Luis Leon.

As for Warren, he's since softened on his views of gay people, but reminded us in November that "tolerance does not mean approval."

We Were Really into Slumdog Millionaire and Anne Hathaway

The way it worked out in 2009 is that the Oscar nominees were announced on January 21—one day after the inauguration. Quick, who were the nominees? Just kidding, here's what that list looked like: 

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Best Actor
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Four years later, and (sorry, Richard) Anne Hathaway is the only person from that list to make a repeat performance in 2013.

We Were Still Trying to Understand Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga was just getting popular and "Just Dance" was the number one song in January.  Billboard wrote: 

It required 22 weeks, but New York newcomer Lady Gaga reaches No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a 2-1 lift for "Just Dance" (Jan. 17). The song logs the longest trip to the top since Creed's "With Arms Wide Open" advanced to No. 1 in its 27th frame in November 2000 ...

And we were just figuring out what this fantastic creature who used to be named Joanne Stefani Germanotta was all about. Oh, and apparently even back then people were still into Nickelback:

Nickelback breaks the record for most No. 1s in the 13-year history of the Adult Pop Songs chart, as "Gotta Be Somebody" rises 2-1 (Jan. 24). The song is the group's fifth chart-topper, breaking a tie with Matchbox Twenty ...

Ryan Gosling Was Just Getting Started

We're not talking about Gosling on Mickey Mouse Club or Young Hercules, we're talking about the "Fuck Yeah! Ryan Gosling" Tumblr, which was created in December 2008:

Jezebel gave a shout-out to the Tumblr on January 14, 2009, and then this happened nearly one year later:

Gosling, obviously, has since faded into obscurity.

Our Superbowl Is Better This Year

The Steelers and the Cardinals were headed to the big game in 2009.  This year's all-Harbaugh matchup is better we think (sorry, Steelers fans).

2009's Manti Te'o was ... 

... probably David Letterman. OK, fine, this scandal really started in October with Letterman's confession of having sex with staffers and being the target of an extortion plot:

But the case hung on until March when Robert "Joe" Halderman, a former CBS producer, plead guilty to trying to shake down David Letterman for $2 million because he knew about Letterman's affair.

In January 2009 Chris Brown and Rihanna Were...

Chris Brown and Rihanna.

This Hat ...

... was requested by the Smithsonian, and according to ABC News, the only other original resides in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. People are apparently requesting copies of the hat for this year's inauguration.

The guys in this inauguration picture and the mustache ...

are no longer on Obama's staff.

Steve Jobs

On January 14, 2009 Steve Jobs took a six-month leave of absence amid surrounding speculation on his deteriorating health. Knowing what we know now about his lost battle with cancer puts a new light on his leave. He said at the time: 

Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

As the BBC reported then, Jobs had told us he was suffering from a "hormone imbalance."

D.C. ...

has New York Times trends stories now.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.