The Tomb is friends with the managing editor a major conservative news magazine. He asked for my thoughts about Barry's inauguration address. Here's my response.
"Wow. I'm honestly excited that you would ask.
I just got finished watching it for the second time. I watched it live and the left for a depo, which lasted until 6:30. I haven't read any coverage and so the following is pure, unfiltered first impression.
I think it struck the right tone. Ever since he accepted the Democratic nomination, he has dialed back the soaring rhetoric that we saw at the 2004 convention and in the primaries. And since he won the election, all of his nationally-aired speeches have taken a somber tone.
This is very smart. In his desire to build consensus and broad-based support, he as been painfully careful not to present an air of self-congratulation or to foster a sense that he and the Democrats are on a victory lap. And I think that today's speech definitely falls into that mode.
If one takes a look at the substance, much of what he said today should provide heart to conservatives. He made an unequivocal declaration that America will win the war against terrorism. He explicitly rejected the foreign "blame the west" crowd and implicitly rejected their domestic counterparts. He acknowledged patriotism as a core American value and free markets as the best generator of wealth. He acknowledged that it is the American people, not the government that makes our country great. And, most memorably, he promised to help usher in a new era of personal responsibility.
What was missing was a memorable phrase that will sink into the national consciousness (although an era of personal responsibility comes close). Many were looking forward to such a moment - a moment that never really came. I'll reiterate, this was likely by design. Fewer rhetorical flourishes leaves Obama less open to the criticism that he purely form over substance. I don't think we will see the call and response style or the joyful energy of the primaries until the economy is in better shape, we have victory in Iraq, and he identifies a core group of centrist Democrats and moderate Republicans that will help him enact his agenda.
All that being said, today's speech raises an interesting question - just how much original drafting were John Favreau and Ben Rhodes doing last year? After all, knowing what we know about BHO's self-regard, one has to assume the last few major speeches were all penned by Barry. Could it be that many of the high notes reached last summer were composed by a recent Holy Cross grad? Ultimately, I would say no. Obama's 2004 convention speech was all his own and Favreau never made Kerry sound half as good. But perhaps Obama will need learn how to delegate and collaborate (like he did while on the trail) in order to achieve the same level of oratory we saw last summer.
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