Reviews In: Obama Speech Kind of a Drag

Obama's inaugural address was "a philosophic statement of high moral purpose," said Reverend Eugene Rivers on MSNBC just now. Everyone agrees: it was serious and somber.

Maybe we wanted some old-fashioned hope-mongering, today, but Obama sternly shook his head at us and said no, today we deal with the fact that everything in America sucks right now, and it's all of our faults. But, you know, at least Bush is gone.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord." That is the line of Obama's speech that most quickly lent itself to headlines, as it was maybe the most direct distinction drawn between the politics of Bush and his preferred method of doing business.


The other headline-ready bit? Our new "era of responsibility." The theme was service, and the speech wasn't flowery. Will it be remembered for generations to come? Will a "ask not what your country can do for you" emerge from the forthcoming 24 hour media postmortem? Who knows. John Dickerson found it impersonal, and the "sober, dealing with a world of shit" reading seems to have taken hold.

But there were important bits. He killed the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush era of "small government" rhetorically with his line about "the question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works"; also a callback of sorts to what is still his best speech, the 2004 convention address in which he explained that America is not two separate colors.


But it's way too early to pick out the lines that will resonate for years, if any do. At the moment, it's all images. But what images!