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    January 20, 2009

    From transition to clean break

    Posted by: Chris


    CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin sounded a sour note a few hours ago on Barack Obama's inaugural address, criticizing it for lacking a coherent theme or any memorable phrase or idea. I would actually agree.

    The speech surprised by being less memorable or powerful than his race speech, his acceptance speech in Denver or on election night in Chicago -- not to mention his 2004 keynote at the Democratic convention. Though with four warm-ups like that and all the world attention, it was probably impossible for Obama to live up to expectations today.

    If a central goal of his presidency -- and the inauguration -- is to u nify the country, the speech itself probably hit a sour note. I can only imagine how President Bush and Republicans reacted to hearing about "a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable." We usually hear these sorts of broadsides from Republicans after Democratic control in Washington. Can't you imagine Ronald Reagan saying the same thing after four years of Jimmy Carner?

    Not to mention how John McCain and his supporters probably felt about Obama proclaiming, "We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord," or "or that in national defense, "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

    I agree on each and every point, but that's not my point. I wonder whether such direct attacks on Bush and the GOP, especially on such a day, will undermine the goodwill Obama has built and set the country on a more divisive course.

    On the other hand, polls show Americans overwhelmingly agree that the Bush presidency was a failure and the nation is headed in the wrong direction. Even arch-conservative Bill Bennett called the speech "muscular," and though he was talking about its few chest-thumping passage, he is right. Obama set a clear new course for the country.

    Forget talk of a transition, this was a clean break. This was change. That's what the people want, after all.

    (Photo via Washington Post)



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    1. Tim C on Jan 21, 2009 1:23:33 PM:

      What I was most pleased to hear was actually in Rick Warren's invocation, "Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all." That is one thing that I think has always made the US special--that loyalty and dedication to the nation is not subservient, as it is in many, many places, to family or tribe or religion or ethnicity. How many nations do we see ripped apart or that fail to attain their potential because something else is more important than the nation? Before anything else, we are Americans. You can quibble with the religious component of the inaugural, but I'm glad someone voiced this to remind us.

    1. Terrance on Jan 21, 2009 3:52:45 PM:

      At what point are we allowed to tell the truth? What's wrong with saying how we got here and openly repudiating the policies and actions that facilitated this mess? (Some of which have Democratic fingerprints on them, too)

      If our history teaches us nothing else, it's that the stuff we avoid talking about and addressing in the open -- that from the past which we do not loudly repudiate -- eventually comes back to haunt us.

      To much in America has been unsayable for too long. That's just one problem with the last eight years.

      Oh, and Gene Robinson's prayer was far more moving -- in it's willingness to say the hard things that needed saying in the moment. Too bad so few people actually heard it.

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