The night Barack Obama won the election, he gave one of the most inspiring victory addresses I ever heard.
The day Barack Obama was inaugurated president of the United States, he gave one of the least inspiring inaugural addresses I have ever heard.
Even the estimated 2 million people who came to see the man they revere and to celebrate the inauguration of the first black president of the United States, cheered few times. There was almost nothing to cheer. The address was largely a downer. Even if America is in as desperate a condition as the new president believes it is, the moment called for something uplifting.
As a politically moderate friend of mine said to me, the speech was joyless.
And when it wasn't joyless, it was often either incoherent or disjointed or factually wrong.
That is not to say nothing good was said. There were some fine thoughts, delivered in Barack Obama's effective manner.
So let's honor the good:
"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned." We may differ on how greatness is earned but this point cannot be stated too often.
"For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh." It is a joy to hear, finally, a man of the left include the Vietnam War in the list of the good wars America has fought.
"…to all other peoples and governments…know that America is…ready to lead once more." You have to wonder how the Democratic Left reacts to a call to America to lead isn't that American exceptionalism?
"…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." Hurrah! Given that the "T-word" was not mentioned in the Democratic presidential debates, it was nice to hear it in the inaugural address.
Now to some platitudes:
"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear …" It is time to retire this Democratic Party platitude. No one invokes fear as much as the left does. Beyond Islamic terror, it's hard to identify a right-wing fear. But the left's list has been almost endless: racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, heterosexual AIDS, secondhand smoke, global warming, just to name a few.
"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." No matter how many times I read this line, I had little idea what Mr. Obama was referring to.
And onto some problematic lines:
"We will restore science to its rightful place." I assume this is liberal code for pushing, among other things, embryonic stem cell research. But that is not the problem with this statement. There are two other problems. First, science's "rightful place" is a notch beneath moral values, but one suspects that those who agreed with Mr. Obama's statement did not hear it that way. Second, if science is so important to Mr. Obama how does he so cavalierly announce that global warming is a major threat to humanity's future in the light of current global cooling and the number of scientists who dissent from the man-made-carbon-dioxide-global-warming hysteria? Is the global warming steamroller really driven by science? Or by politics?
"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works..." If in Obama's America, we will no longer ask, "Is government too big?" we will be in big trouble.
"(The market's) power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that … a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous." Precisely because too many Democrats (and Republicans) were disturbed by the fact that the prosperous were buying homes more easily than the poor, the government cajoled banks into giving loans to too many people who should not have had been given them. Now the poor and just about everyone else are suffering.
"We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." It is only a "false choice" among those who deem the Patriot Act a rejection of our ideals. Most Americans believe that the Bush administration kept us safe and preserved our ideals.
"We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth …" We are? What religion has shaped America as much as Judaism and Christianity have? What language has shaped America as much as English? The President's point is either untrue or meaningless. Why did he make it?
"We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself." Unfortunately, there isn't a shred of evidence that most of the old hatreds are passing. And there are even some new ones. And "common humanity" means little outside of biology. People who treat others decently do so out of common values, not "common humanity."
"To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy." Really? Who exactly? Ruthless tyrants who only destroy have had hundreds of millions of followers. The president's claim is more wishful thinking.
And, finally, a platitude that is actually dangerous:
"Our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint." Only the very, very naive could say something so wrong. It is hard to identify a time in history when any people's security emanated from the justness of their cause. That is a fairy tale. Did the justness of the Jews' cause give the Jews security in Hitler's Europe? Or the Ukrainians or Armenians or Cambodians or anyone else? Powerful armies give decent peoples their security, not the justness of their cause. If President Obama believes that in this world good people are secure thanks to the goodness of their cause, America is in trouble.