What he said:
Conservative or liberal, Obama's 2nd inaugural address was a great speech, one that was well received. Except by ideologue conservatives.
Unusual opening from David Brooks, the conservative:
The best Inaugural Addresses make an argument for something. President Obama’s second one, which surely has to rank among the best of the past half-century, makes an argument for a pragmatic and patriotic progressivism...EJ Dionne, the liberal:
During his first term, Obama was inhibited by his desire to be postpartisan, by the need to not offend the Republicans with whom he was negotiating. Now he is liberated. Now he has picked a team and put his liberalism on full display. He argued for it in a way that was unapologetic. Those who agree, those who disagree and those of us who partly agree now have to raise our game. We have to engage his core narrative and his core arguments for a collective turn...
Obama made his case beautifully. He came across as a prudent, nonpopulist progressive. But I’m not sure he rescrambled the debate. We still have one party that talks the language of government and one that talks the language of the market. We have no party that is comfortable with civil society, no party that understands the ways government and the market can both crush and nurture community, no party with new ideas about how these things might blend together.
But at least the debate is started. Maybe that new wind will come.
President Obama used his inaugural address to make a case – a case for a progressive view of government, and a case for the particular things that government should do in our time.
He gave a speech in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt’s second inaugural and Ronald Reagan’s first: Like both, Obama’s was unapologetic in offering an argument for his philosophical commitments and an explanation of the policies that naturally followed. Progressives will be looking back to this speech for many years, much as today’s progressives look back to FDR’s, and conservatives to Reagan’s.
Richard Socarides/New Yorker:
No one anticipated it, but President Barack Obama used the occasion of his second Inaugural Address to give what was perhaps the most important gay-rights speech in American history. Inaugural Addresses are, by their definition, important and defining occasions, when Presidents set the tone and direction for the coming four years. President Obama used the occasion to make the first direct reference to gay-rights in an Inaugural Address, and he did so with a power and forthrightness we have not heard before, even from him.Come follow us below the fold for more on this historic speech.
Jonathan Bernstein (the political scientist):
What struck me about Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address today — a good speech, although far too long to be a great one — was just how little he gave to conservatives.Jennifer Rubin, always wrong but paid to ignore it:
If there had been any doubt, the president’s second inaugural address did confirm he is a dogged collectivist with little appreciation for the dangers we face in the world.David Ignatius, the Villager: I was bored and I hate when the little people come to DC and muck up the traffic. Here's a flat, partisan and pedestrian column.
Roger Simon, the analyst:
It was a very careful speech. It had been worked on for months, with each word weighed. So it was no accident that Obama used the word “gay” but did not use the word “gun.” The latter has become more controversial than the former these days.
To Obama, a former professor of constitutional law, the speech had a historical framework. At the beginning, he invoked the most sacred words from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
But this was more than just patriotic filler. It was a call to replace inaction with action. “For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing,” Obama said. “While freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.”