Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Falling flat

Obama's inauguration speech underwhelmed:
Despite nearly two months of fine-tuning, the man whose gift for oratory helped launch him into the White House gave a rather flat and unfocused talk without any memorable lines. It didn't even generate much applause among the Obama die-hards who had waited outside in the bitter cold to be a part of history.
The 19-minute address was filled with trite metaphors from "the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms" to "let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come." At times, its somber tone recalled Jimmy Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" talk rather than the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan or Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Even a liberal blogger at Firedoglake called it the "Worst. Inauguration. Ever." And here's Christopher Hitchens (who voted for Obama):
It's just that there’s an element of hubris in all this current hope-mongering and that I am beginning to be a little bit afraid to think of what Wednesday morning will feel like.
Via Instapundit, as also this absurd encomium from Walter Shapiro:
The graceful Inaugural poet, Elizabeth Alexander, spoke after the poetry. For it was Barack Obama's long-anticipated speech that truly showed the writerly hand. There were echoes of prior inaugural addresses (particularly John Kennedy, but also flickers of Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton) in the new president's words, but repeatedly there were striking phrases and sudden bursts of imagery that made it Obama's own. Whether it was through simple language about the "the still waters of peace" and the nation's "patchwork heritage" or the angry evocations of "the lash of the whip" and "the bitter swill of civil war and segregation," President Obama reminded the nation that here was a man who wrote himself into his job.
As the founder of Authors Against Obama, I merely note en passant this unsubstantiated attribution of literary prowess. Given the evidence that Bill Ayers ghost-wrote Dreams From My Father, I am naturally suspicious whenever Obama becomes too eloquent, but this speech wasn't so good that Jon Favreau couldn't have written it.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers. He calls it a "pretty good speech." Watch out, Professor: "damning with faint praise" may soon be classified as a hate crime. You want to strive for the Kathleen Parker "puddles of Hope" worship of his awe-inspiring awesome awesomeness.

UPDATE II: "Churlish right-wingers" indulging in "easy cynicism" -- that's us! Me and Jonah Goldberg!

UPDATE III: Ace of Spades catches Garrison Keillor wading through the puddles of Hope -- Ace, can you explain that joke to Dean Esmay?


  1. Prior to these negative Obama articles, and subsequent ones that we know will come, Obama was going to close Gitmo. Me thinks he will be intolerant of dissent, and send all non-supporters there instead.

  2. Gregg Levine is clearly talking about the organisation of the crowds making it the worst inauguration ever - the whole point is that he didn't even hear the speech, so you shouldn't suggest that he disapproved of the content itself.

  3. Other,

    Your quotation of Firedoglake is dishonest and misleading: He was pissed off because he didn't get a chance to see & hear, not because of the speech - which he didn't see or hear!

    It's normal to lie, but you might want to make it less obvious that that is what you are doing.

  4. Well, if FireDogLake commenters are going to start calling selective quoting, even when accurate, lying, then we should go over Sarah Palin's words as reported in the media and count the "lies" told about her, starting with Charlie Gibson's misquote.

    Naah! This is Obama we are talking about, If this was the Matrix, he would be neo, if this was Harry Potter, he would be ... well Harry Potter, but this is real life so he is The Obama. Dissent is no longer patriotic. Authority is no longer to be questioned. We are in a new politics, Obama said it himself, and once he creates a text, it is to be read, comprehended, committed to heart, but never questioned!

  5. All good points, but the most bizarre statement Obama made concerned "harnassing the sun, wind and soil to operate factories and cars."

    I can't wait for him to get my car to run on dirt.

  6. Agreed on all counts. I have been impressed with Obama's oratory skills since, for him, it really is all in the delivery. When you read one of his speeches on paper, there's nothing particularly brilliant or impressive in the writing. Obama's great skill is that he takes "C"-grade prose and elevates it as an "A+" speaker.

    I was hoping that we'd finally see his A+ oratory skill used to deliver a truly inspiring Inauguration Address as he began a new phase of governing.

    Instead, the President sounded like he was still campaigning. He regurgitated bits and pieces of his past campaign speeches, and strung them together with a number of icy metaphors and (rather inappropriate) back-handed criticisms of the Bush Administration.

    Not a particularly strong start for those of us who appreciate good writing and those of us with decoder rings. For the true believers who love President Obama without condition, however, the speech satisfied their simple requirements: bash former President Bush, remind everyone how much they enjoyed repudiating Bush on November 4th, and note the historic nature of the day.

  7. Your quotation of Firedoglake is dishonest and misleading...

    Technically speaking, any quotation of Firedoglake is going to be suspect. Have you seen what passes for analysis over there?

    (Though it should be fun to ask that gang if they really want the people in charge of the inauguration to be in charge of their health care. The cognitive dissonance should be entertaining.)

  8. One final observation:

    We are now living in time when Obama could just read verbatim from a car repair manual and, as long as he was accompanied by a gospel choir, his supporters would think it's "The Sermon on the Mount."

  9. pretty sure the dirt reference was for biofuels, an important source of energy.

  10. In the future the President ought to be allowed to have a .ppt or similar presentation to go along with his/her inaugural speech.

    Obama's speech would definitely been helped by this.

    In fact, the more program focused the speech the more important to have the .ppt.

  11. "biofuels, an important source of energy."

    Indeed, I think I will go have a bit of scotch. Peat is a wonderful fuel, when used for the right things.

    Cars wouldn't be one of them.

  12. Given the evidence that Bill Ayers ghost-wrote Dreams From My Father, I am naturally suspicious whenever Obama becomes too eloquent, but this speech wasn't so good that Jon Favreau couldn't have written it.

    The evidence that Ayers ghost-wrote Dreams From My Father is far fetched and unconvincing. Coupled with your use of the Firedog Lake quotation I think you might be coming down with a case of Obama Derangement Syndrome. Relax, he'll give you some thing legitimate to criticize soon enough.

  13. Oh come on, the speech was fine. I think it set the tone for his administration and was appropriately inspirational and somber given the circumstances.

    No one can seriously suggest that this was not a better delivered speech than those of the proceeding five inaugurations.

    At the end of the day the words will mean nothing if he can't deliver. As an independent I didn't vote for him due to the lack of experience, but so far I have been very impressed. (Of course he hasn't had to do any heavy lifting yet) Let's give the guy some breathing room before criticizing his every move. We all need this to be a successful presidency.

  14. Sorry, 'twas a lousy speech. Rushed, sing-song in places, utterly boring in others. An unremarkable speech. Even the MSM couldn't spin it differently, 'though Brian tried mightly.