Second inauguration speeches seldom move the needle much. President Obama’s marks the seventeenth such speech in history and, as historian Douglass Brinkley explained to CBS News yesterday, with the “notable exception of Abraham Lincoln, who delivered his second inaugural speech as the Civil War waned and slavery neared an end, few [presidents] in U.S. history are remembered for this particular address.”Whether or not Obama’s speech will be remembered remains to be seen, but here’s some analysis of what it might mean for the next four years. Please share your thoughts below.
The Two Most Powerful Allusions in Obama’s Speech Today: “I like the precise logical concision of contrasting “self-evident” with “self-executing” truths. But “blood drawn by the lash” is an impressive and confident touch. It was of course an allusion to a closing passage in what is generally considered history’s only great second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln’s in 1865…” [James Fallows in The Atlantic]
For Obama, More Prose than Poetry in Second Inaugural: “[T]he speech overall was more prosaic than most inaugurals. It was somewhat surprising, in this context, to hear a defense of entitlements, a disquisition on climate change, and calls for immigration reform and an end to voter suppression legislation. In all of this, Obama’s model may have been Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 second inaugural—the first such address delivered in January—which was a clarion call for liberal politics and an attempt to cast it in the American mainstream. Sixteen days later FDR over-reached with his Court-packing plan, and his influence in domestic affairs began to ebb.” [Richard Tofel at ProPublica]
Obama Was Always a Liberal, But Now He’s Defending Liberalism: “There’s no question that Obama spent most of his 2,100 words today laying out what he cares about. But I don’t think that’s what makes it such a departure for him. Obama has laid out his worldview in a variety of settings, even in big thematic speeches like this one. It would be hard to read, say, his June 2008 victory speech without a sneaking suspicion the guy is a liberal. The key difference is that Obama actively defended his worldview this time, which is not something we’ve see him do on these stages.” [Noam Scheiber in The New Republic]
Twelve Ways Obama Smacked Down the Tea Party and the Right in Inauguration Speech: “With its elegant rendering of the liberal agenda before the eyes of the American people, President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address was music to the ears of many a progressive. But to the ears of Tea Partiers and the Republican right, this inauguration speech, as well as the ceremony that surrounded it, was war — not just a war of words, but a war of prayer, a war of poetry and even, perhaps, a war of song.” [Adele Stans at Alternet]
Speech Gives Climate Goals Center Stage: “President Obama made addressing climate change the most prominent policy vow of his second Inaugural Address, setting in motion what Democrats say will be a deliberately paced but aggressive campaign built around the use of his executive powers to sidestep Congressional opposition.” [Richard W. Stevenson and John M. Broder in The New York Times]
Obama the Centrist Comes Out as a Liberal: “Obama’s message was clear. If Washington, or Madison, or even Jefferson were alive today, they would be modernizing technocrats, just like him, rather than anti-government Tea Party supporters. It was a variant of an argument the President has made many times before, and to great effect, because it has the merit of being largely true. He is the reasonable one. It is the Republicans who are the extremists.” [John Cassidy in The New Yorker]
And don’t miss this great interactive from The Wall Street Journal that pits two presidents and their inaugural speeches head to head. Learn about the word choices presidents have made over the years. For instance, how many times do you think the founding fathers used the word “God” in their inaugural speeches? The answer might surprise you.