With a host of near 2 million gathered on the Mall to see him sworn in, Barack Obama delivered an inaugural that was the antithesis of a rallying cry for the "it's-our-turn!" faithful assembled below.
Rather, it was an admonition, a warning to the American people of the gravity of our condition, and an invitation of inclusion to that part of the nation that remains wary of Barack Obama.
Yes, there were reminders that he is our first African-American president. But this speech was not about the novelty of his race. It was about placing this 44th president in the tradition of all who have gone before -- Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, JFK and -- Ronald Reagan.
A first sign this was not to be another windy progressive spiel came with his statement that our crisis is due not just to the "greed and irresponsibility" of some, but to our own "collective failure to make hard choices."
All of us are at fault, Obama was saying, in what became a stern and severe sermon to the nation.
"On this day we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. ... In the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things."
Citing St. Paul in First Corinthians, Obama cast himself in the role of one who speaks with authority, to demand of those he leads that they cease to act as children.
"In reaffirming our greatness as a nation," we must remember who and what made us great. It was not those who "prefer leisure over work"; rather, it was "the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things."
Pardon me, but this is neo-Reaganite.
For our liberty, said Obama, men like these "fought and died in places like Concord and Gettysburg, Normandy and Khe Sanh."
This was startling. Mythologizing Khe Sanh, where the Marines held out against thousands of North Vietnamese in the bloodiest days of Vietnam, Obama was associating himself with the part of America that holds with Reagan that Vietnam was a "noble cause," not the "dirty immoral war" of the left's propaganda.
Obama seemed to be severing himself from Sen. McGovern, who diabolized the war, from John Kerry, who came home from Vietnam to say Americans were acting like war criminals, and from Jimmy Carter, who in 1976 called Vietnam a "racist war."
Was President Obama saying the right was right? Perhaps not. But he was saying that the Marines at Khe Sanh and all of those who fought and died in Vietnam are to be honored alongside the men who stormed the bluffs at Pointe du Hoc.
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