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Great Orator, Poor Speech

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I was talking to Peter Robinson, who helped write the immortal "Tear Down This Wall, Mr. Gorbachev" speech delivered in Berlin by my dad, Ronald Reagan.

He told me he went back to the archives for 1981 and pulled out a couple of my dad's quotes from the 1981 inaugural address and compared them with a couple of quotes from Barack Obama's inaugural address. He noted that while my dad said it was "morning in America," with Obama it almost went back in tone to Jimmy Carter's infamous "malaise" speech, which pictured an America down in the dumps.

For Obama it was more like "mourning" in America.

You can hear echoes of that malaise speech in Obama's inaugural address when he said, "These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights."

There were, however, striking similarities between Ronald Reagan's speeches and those of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Robinson said, because the Democrats have long been big students of my dad's speeches, going back time and again to the archives to read the words of the Great Communicator and learn from his techniques in communicating.

If you listen to Barack Obama you hear his programs and policies described the way Ronald Reagan would have described them had they been his agenda.

The difference between the two men was that my dad believed everything he said all the way to the core of his being, while Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats use speeches to mask what they really believe.

The bottom line is that the new president's widely anticipated inaugural address, which beforehand was widely touted to be another stunning example of exalted oratory, just plain fell flat.

It wasn't the soaring eloquence for which he is rightly noted -- it was in fact the kind of speech a Chicago ward heeler would have made to his constituents -- " full of sound and fury," as Shakespeare would have put it, "but signifying nothing."

Perhaps the most noteworthy event during the inauguration was the jeremiad disguised as a prayer offered by the grizzled old veteran of the long-past civil rights struggle, the Rev. Joseph Lowery.

As Barack Obama smiled, Rev. Lowery ended the prayer by saying "Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- when yellow will be mellow -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- and when white will embrace what is right."

As Rush Limbaugh remarked, Lowery's so-called prayer was far more memorable that the president's entire inaugural address.


I wonder if President Obama had any idea of what he was saying when he praised "the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom."

These "risk takers . who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom," are the small and large business men and women of America who do the hiring, create products, provide needed services and compete with foreign competitors. They are the very people he wants to burden with heavier and heavier taxation and needless regulations that hamper their attempts to compete with foreign businesses and industries.

The craven New York Times might have had what have been described as "Obamisms" over the speech, but saner observers are simply yawning.

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