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Projecting Their Own Views
on the Blank Screen of Obama’s Inaugural Address?

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 7:22 pm - January 21, 2009.
Filed under: National Politics,Obama Watch

Given that I found the president’s inaugural address kind of boring, I’m probably not the one to offer an extended exegesis. While I had sat in my futon for more than an hour following the festivities, rising only to refill my cup of coffee, I started fidgeting about three minutes into his speech, finally getting up to check my e-mail, this blog and other web-sites.

I still listened after I logged on, but did not focus as I had for the first parts of the address.  The president seemed to shout the first part of the address, his tone modulating as he moved into the middle, then become more impassioned toward the end.  The speech seemed rather pedestrian, neither uplifting nor inspiring. Just before a conservative friend was to pick me up to take me to Disneyland, I checked Stephen Green’s drunkblogging. That smart conservative pundit found the president sounded “the most conservative, sometimes even neoconnish, on issues of substance.

In contrast to Steve who found neo-conservative themes in the speech, my friend had heard socialist overtones, slights against the outgoing president and threats against any who would dare oppose his initiatives.

When I returned home after a delightful day at Disney, I decided read what other bloggers had written about the speech rather than read it in its entirey, given that an Obama speech on paper (or via pixel) is much different than one as delivered.

Blogger Jay Nordlinger seemed to echo my friend’s thoughts, finding in the speech “repeated digs at Bush, his team, and those of us who supported that administration.”   In a similar vein, blogress Ann Althouse found the president “rather harsh toward John McCain,” seeming to call “the previous administration childish.”

Three other bloggers (Lowry, Novak, Ponnuru) concurred with my initial evaluation that the speech was “pedestrian.” While Nordlinger and Althouse saw slaps at Bush and McCain, others thought it was a speech that could have been delivered by Bush or McCain or even Reagan.

One conservative found it “excellent” while another found it “at times petty.”

Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan agreed with those who thought a Republican could have delivered the address:

It was a moderate speech both in tone and content, a serious and solid speech. The young Democrat often used language with which traditional Republicans would be thoroughly at home. . . .

It was not a joyous, audacious document, not a call to arms, but a reasoned statement by a Young Sobersides.

Because we remember the great inaugural ones and forget the good and mediocre ones, we somehow assume that inaugural addresses must be great, especially given how Obama’s team promoted it in the days leading up to the inaugural, even letting it be known that they consulted former Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorenson and historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough.

This one did not live up to the hype.  It will be counted among the great ones. Like Yuval Levin, I doubt “anyone will remember any line from it in a few weeks, let alone a generation from now.” It didn’t seem to have any unifying theme.

Just because he gave a speech that many found dull and others uninspiring doesn’t mean he won’t be a good or great president. It just means he gave a pedestrian inaugural address. Who, for example, can remember the speeches of such successful chief executives as Teddy Roosevelt, Harry S Truman or Dwight David Eisenhower?

It only partially fulfilled the hopes I’d had for it. He did a nice job of referencing the ideals and uniqueness of our nation. But, he was perfunctory (at best) in acknowledging his predecessor.  Nordlinger thought the president did the “barest minimum:”

He could have done a lot more: not with more words, but with better, truer, more gracious words. Bush has certainly done a lot. For one thing, he is passing on to his successor the means with which to fight the War on Terror.

Yet, many have praised the speech, some quite effusively.   When I have asked those who loved it to cite particular passages which moved them or ideas which inspired them, they fall silent. Maybe they were just inspired by the president’s delivery who, when he speaks from a prepared text, usually speaks very well.  In such cases, even when he’s “saying nothing much, [he always seems to be] saying it superbly well.

But, that’s not to say it wasn’t a good speech. I found it dull, but maybe that was because I was eager to depart for Disneyland. Yet, I do note the vastly different reactions to the speech, from some conservatives finding it socialistic to others believing the president echoed some of their own party leaders.

The consensus seems to be that it was not one of Obama’s greatest, but with widely varying views on what he meant by what he said. Perhaps, he was deliberately ambiguous. But, the reactions do seem to echo something he said in his second book, “I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”

Now that he’s president and must act, that novelty won’t last very long.

Related:  Jon Stewart: Obama’s Inaugural Address Sounded Just Like Bush



  1. Projecting Their Own Views on the Blank Screen of Obama’s Inaugural Address?

    Nothing new. Obama’s entire candidacy was based on that ‘principle’. I have a bet with myself as to how long his supporters can go on such an endless diet of Kool-aid.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — January 21, 2009 @ 8:26 pm - January 21, 2009

  2. If it’s only day 2 and he’s already upsetting people across the political spectrum, it seems to me that he’s going to get some sort of mid-term electoral slap like Clinton did, or he’s going to be out in 4 like Carter. He especially has to be careful about not upsetting the moderates (RINOs and DINOs, too) — who may have voted for him, albeit half-heartedly. If he angers them, and doesn’t keep his core base bubbling over with blind enthusiasm, he’s political toast in a few years.

    Comment by Mark Turner — January 21, 2009 @ 10:20 pm - January 21, 2009

  3. This seems to be Obama’s genius. He simultaneously presents a lot of views of himself and people focus on what serves their emotional agenda. So he had a racist old representative of the Civil Rights Movement pray at his inaugural — and a right-wing opponent of gay marriage. See? Obama comes across as a brothah and a conservative.

    Comment by Anonymous — January 21, 2009 @ 10:43 pm - January 21, 2009

  4. Yes, for someone that normally is a great speaker it really failed big time in my opinion. My head was literally falling during the speech, and I had to go back later and give it everything that I’ve got just to keep the ‘ole eyes open to listen to it so I would know what the hell he said.

    Comment by Scott Legler — January 21, 2009 @ 10:55 pm - January 21, 2009

  5. This isn’t going to be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight is it?
    There are reports that Caroline Schlossberg is dropping out of the NY Senate seat. Probably because she found out it required like a 5 day work week. Now CNN is reporting that 24 hours after Barack botched the oath of office, CJ Roberts has gone over to the White House to re administer the oath of office. The press is upset because they were not notified of the redo. And are complaining about the most “transparent ” administration promised by the chosen one. No TV networks were notified before hand. Earlier in the day, VP Biden joked to reporters and the CJ about bad memories…..and Pres Obama was not amused and grabbed Biden by the arm., until he shut up. Crooks and boobs. God Bless America we are going to need it.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — January 21, 2009 @ 11:16 pm - January 21, 2009

  6. I bet that Sarah Palin knows that only 43 people have taken the Presidential oath of office before Obama, contrary to his speech. I guess they have good schools up there in the 57th state.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — January 21, 2009 @ 11:48 pm - January 21, 2009

  7. GPW, I have to say I found your post unpatriotic. Because, after all, dissent is now unpatriotic.

    (/sarc – The linked article doesn’t say if the dissent-squelching school official is a Democrat, but let’s get real for a second and ask this: Would he have gotten away with doing the exact same thing for Presidents Bush in 2004 or, if he were elected, President McCain? Would he have even wanted to? Truly, the brownshirt cult of the Dear Leader is now upon us. Watch out.)

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — January 21, 2009 @ 11:51 pm - January 21, 2009

  8. I’m probably not the one to offer an extended exegesis.

    Please, not in public. There be women folk about.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — January 22, 2009 @ 2:01 am - January 22, 2009

  9. I wonder if its true that only 44 men have taken the oath of office. How many times in our history has the president become incapacitated for one reason or another, like Reagan when he was shot. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know for certain if Bush Sr. took the reins then (I believe he did not)…

    But does the Vice President take the oath of office under such circumstances? And has it ever happened?

    James Taranto would know.

    Comment by American Elephant — January 22, 2009 @ 5:40 am - January 22, 2009

  10. It was pretty easy to keep the Obama Team focused on one agenda… getting elected … during the campaign. What he will now find is that a lot of people in his administration will be pursuing their own agendas. And this is where a lack of executive experience can be problematic.

    Comment by V the K — January 22, 2009 @ 8:20 am - January 22, 2009

  11. VthK… you just said something I agree with, or at least voiced a concern that I share. Hopefully he’ll have learned the lessons from Clinton’s first days and won’t fall on his face in the same way. (Though, perhaps you hope he will?) 😉

    Comment by CR — January 22, 2009 @ 9:52 am - January 22, 2009

  12. Since someone’s gotta say it–OK, the first time through the oath, with the Bible, he screws it up. The second time through, without the Bible, he gets it right. Let’s see–is he afraid of swearing an oath on the Bible? It’s probably nothing, but is he really so clueless as to not know exactly how people are going to interpret this? That he is a “secret Muslim” who doesn’t want to swear on the Bible? I’m sure this isn’t the case, but he has so mishandled this minor slip-up that this will continue to resonate in the blogosphere and now he can’t stop it.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — January 22, 2009 @ 10:06 am - January 22, 2009

  13. I wonder if its true that only 44 men have taken the oath of office.

    No. Obama (or his speechwriters) got it wrong. It’s 43 men. Grover Cleveland took it twice, that is, he is counted as both the 22nd and 24th POTUS.

    does the Vice President take the oath of office under [bad] circumstances?

    I’d be very surprised if that were so, or if Bush I took it in the hours after Reagan’s shooting.

    is [Obama] a “secret Muslim” who doesn’t want to swear on the Bible? I’m sure this isn’t the case

    Sigh – I guess I am going to have to watch the video. From what I’ve read, Roberts tripped him up the first time. OTOH, he had spoken over Roberts leading into that; and why didn’t he take a little responsibility and go into it with the oath memorized? And did he really omit the Bible, the second time?

    As to Obama’s religion – I think the Cult of the Dear Leader begins at home. As V pointed out recently, Obama has apparently never tried to discourage his creepy supporters from shouting “Obama” in the place of “USA”. And his wife talks about him like he’s General Zod. I think his and his wife’s religion is himself.

    If he is a secret anything, he is probably a secret anti-Christian (i.e., despite his professing the contrary) in the manner of a typical ‘sophisticated’ American leftist trying to profess a fig leaf of traditional religion, so as to advance themselves in American politics.. Still, the Muslim angle is underrated. The following are facts, plain and simple:

    (1) Obama was raised as a Muslim.
    (2) Obama was considered to be a Muslim as a child.
    (3) Those facts, plus the underlying facts that his father and step-father were Muslims, make him now and forever a Muslim *in the eyes of the world’s Muslims*.
    (4) As an adult, Obama publicly converted to Christianity. Since we in the West tend to go by the adult’s choice, that makes him a Christian (sort of – see my comments above) in our eyes. But in the eyes of the world’s Muslims, it only makes him an apostate Muslim – i.e., the most hateful thing possible, again in their eyes.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — January 22, 2009 @ 10:47 am - January 22, 2009

  14. #12
    You have just described better than I have ever seen exactly how and why the conservative reality became so screwed up.
    First – the facts are wrong
    Second – the conspiracy (in this case “secret Muslim”) is just plain idiotic
    Third – the folks in the “cocoon” keep talking about it over and over until it becomes “fact” in their minds.
    Fourth and finially – it becomes a liberal media cover up when nobody will report on such stupidity.

    It’s the same pattern that happens again and again.

    Comment by gillie — January 22, 2009 @ 10:48 am - January 22, 2009

  15. #12: I’m sure it’s an MSM conspiracy, but as #13 said, the truth is that Justice Roberts screwed it up. If you doubt it, the words are prescribed by the Constitution. Compare it to the video of what Justice Roberts said. But, some people have a narrative so firmly burned into their minds that the truth becomes irrelevant.

    Comment by CR — January 22, 2009 @ 10:52 am - January 22, 2009

  16. Interesting nugget: Most of the money in the “stimulus” doesn’t come into the economy until 2011. So, the Dear One is willing to let people suffer for two years, just so an economic uptick will help his re-election chances?

    What an a-hole.

    Comment by V the K — January 22, 2009 @ 11:37 am - January 22, 2009

  17. IMHO — The speech was fine, and I agree with Peggy Noonan — mostly. Unfortunately, Peggy has become Obamabrainwaished so I’m having to take what she says lately with a grain of salt.

    I thought the digs at Bush were unnecessary and “childish”. However, I read a bit more into it. We have had a Bush or Clinton in or around the White House since 1980. I have a funny feeling those digs were as much directed at Bill Clinton as they were at George W. Bush.

    ‘Nuf said.

    Comment by Bruce (GayPatriot) — January 22, 2009 @ 12:26 pm - January 22, 2009

  18. Off-topic: Who should be at the helm of the RNC, Michael Steele or Newt? Steele would be seen by many as affirmative action and cynical me-tooism, regardless of his credentials. Nonetheless, does a highly qualified black man deserve to have his race considered if it means a possible electoral gain in minority communities, or is recognizing and playing the cynical game simply ceding the moral ground?

    (“I’m independent, not a Republican and so I don’t care…” Yawn.)

    Comment by Ignatius — January 22, 2009 @ 12:40 pm - January 22, 2009

  19. So, why didn’t Obama use a Bible the second time? As a Christian, I would want the Bible present at all my life-events. It’s probably nothing, but it’s odd. And I bet his birth certificate reads “Muslim” because his father was a Muslim (I don’t think that’s a conspiracy theory–it’s just what usually happens, you get listed with your parents’ faith) which is why he won’t release it. That doesn’t make him a Muslim–I think I’m listed as a Christian Scientist. But his Muslim birth is a fact he doesn’t want known, and he’s doing a poor job of squelching rumors. Or maybe is a secret Muslim–I don’t think the UCC checks very carefully as to whether you believe the Trinity. Maybe Obama considers Jesus a great prophet. Who knows? The point is, we don’t know anything so we can project anything we want.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — January 22, 2009 @ 1:04 pm - January 22, 2009

  20. No Bible the second time? Lordy lordy. And no TV cameras allowed. This really could be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Did you see the live feed of Obama signing the executive orders today. He had to keep turning and asking for clarification from his chief councel Greg Craig about what was in the executive orders. Does that mean Obama didn’t know what he was signing. I had a creepy feeling he was a puppet. Being controlled by others.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — January 22, 2009 @ 1:39 pm - January 22, 2009

  21. No Bible the second time?

    No, the second oath was administered on a copy of A Million Little Pieces, to symbolize what a complete fraud has just been elected president.

    Comment by V the K — January 22, 2009 @ 1:43 pm - January 22, 2009

  22. I bet his birth certificate reads “Muslim” because his father was a Muslim

    That should be no great surprise, but it would explain why the Obama campaign only wanted us to see some sort of secondary certification (I forget what exactly) of the birth certificate.

    – Under Muslim law, the father being a Muslim more or less dictates that the child is Muslim… in the eyes of Muslims. (Not us.)
    – I don’t think Obama is “secret Muslim”, just a “secret non-Christian”, as I would expect he worships his own cult first, in his heart.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — January 22, 2009 @ 1:44 pm - January 22, 2009

  23. Using my “If this had been Palin. . .” test today, seeing Biden swearing in those people–the press would have crucified her. Biden (and I’m really trying not to be ageist here) could only be described as “doddering.” Exactly why he inspires confidence when Palin doesn’t is beyond me. I’d much rather have Marge Gunderson a heartbeat away from the Presidency than Coach from Cheers.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — January 22, 2009 @ 3:38 pm - January 22, 2009

  24. […] Projecting Their Own Viewson the Blank Screen of Obama’s Inaugural Address? […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Obama Worship: Flip Side of Bush Hatred — January 23, 2009 @ 3:38 am - January 23, 2009

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