In his Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama confounded all conventional expectations while soothing the fears of worried conservatives.
Based upon the big moments of his campaign, many observers expected a speech of scary, sweeping, socialistic substance written in a glittering, epic, eloquent and indelible style. Instead, the new president delivered a puzzling address of mostly reassuring substance, but worded in a pedestrian, platitudinous and occasionally clumsy style.
First, the good news about the speech: President Obama explicitly and forcefully distanced himself from the far-left “peace activists” who provided his drive for the presidency with much of its initial energy and urgency.
Near the very beginning of the Inaugural Address, Mr. Obama stated simply and clearly: “Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” With these words, he effectively rebuked all those in the Democratic Party who insist that our struggles against terrorism amount to a “phony war,” or that George W. Bush exaggerated the menace we face in order to seize power and advance imperialistic neo-con agenda.
Later, the new president sent an unmistakable signal to all those at home and abroad who expect him to retreat from confronting evil, or surrender to bullies, or apologize for the foreign policy of his predecessor. “With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet,” he declaimed. “We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
Similar words could have been spoken by John McCain or George W. Bush himself , as President Obama pointedly declined to provide either comfort or encouragement to the America-bashing cadres of “Code Pink” or “The World Can’t Wait.” (Who continued to busy themselves with anti-Bush “shoe-throwing” demonstrations on the day before the inauguration).
Meanwhile, the big speech also reassured Joe the Plumber and other nervous free-marketeers that careless campaign rhetoric about “spreading the wealth” might not, after all, constitute a major priority for the Obama administration. In his presentation’s single strongest paragraph, Mr. Obama insisted that “the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”