I wasn’t particularly anticipating Obama’s inaugural speech. The important thing was to see Bush-Cheney leave and see Obama take the oath. So when the speech came, Obama could have recited a nursery rhyme and I would have still been in a swoon-like state of delight. But I did listen to it, and here are some of my thoughts:
1) I never thought that a U.S. President would actually acknowledge my existence and speak respectfully to non-believers. Pretty amazing, and pretty impressive. This almost–but not quite–made up for Rick Warren’s reading of the Lord’s Prayer, which I believe has absolutely no place in a civil swearing in. (Ed turned his back on Rick Warren)
2) O’s speech emphatically denounced and rejected the policies of Bush-Cheney in no uncertain terms, and that made me happy. Although Paul Krugman’s column in yesterday’s New York Times bemoaned the speech’s lack of boldness and specifics (rightfully so, in some respects), virtually everyone has noted that for an inaugural speech, it was almost unprecedented in roundly breaking with the past. (A bunch of Bush advisors are actually whining about it now, claiming that Obama was too harsh on Bush and should have been more gracious. Please. Grow up.)
3) I wish Obama had been more specific and sweeping about his plans for health care. As it was, he simply said that health care was too expensive, which doesn’t begin to describe the depth of the problem.
4) I thought Obama’s call for a new era of personal responsibility was vague, and sounded a little too much like the Republicans, who say that all the time. If by personal responsibiity, Obama means that we have to stay politically engaged and keep his feet to the fire (which we do), then I couldn’t agree more. But if he means something else–well, I’m sorry, but for the last 8 years, very few of us have even had all the information we need to challenge the worst of the Bush policies. We were lied to, remember?
5) Obama says the challenges are real and many. It’s a little thing, but I like that. The Republicans would just gloss over it and say things aren’t that bad.
6) Obama wants to restore science to its rightful place: hallelujah!
7) We reject the idea that we must choose between our safety and our ideals: can’t get much better than that!
8) Power alone cannot protect us. It does not entitle us to do as we please. Be prudent. Good. Good.
9) A tad too much bellicosity in the speech, maybe to placate the hawks. Oh well.
As noted, I didn’t really care what he said. But actually, there were quite a few good, even surprisingly good things in the speech–along with some vague and annoying blather. A mixed bag, weak in some places, strong in others. It just underscores to me how Obama needs us to keep pushing him. It was the same with FDR.
Whatever Obama’s weaknesses, with him there is hope; with Bush, Cheney or McCain, there was none, none, none.