What the national papers are saying about President Obama‘s inauguration speech…
USA Today saw a campaign in the works: “The 18-minute speech was less an appeal for unity than a campaign-style call to the base, an eloquent if predictable recitation of core Democratic values such as women’s rights, gay rights, the virtue of programs for the retired and the disabled, and the importance of tackling global warming and immigration reform.
“That sent a reassuring signal to the Democrats and independents who helped re-elect the president, but reciting priorities and delivering solutions are two different things.”
Wall Street Journal picked up on a divisive message: “Inaugurals usually include calls for national unity and appeals to our founding principles, which is part of their charm. With the election long over, swearing in a President is a moment for celebrating larger national purposes. But Mr. Obama’s speech was notable for invoking the founding principles less to unify than to justify what he called ‘collective action.’ The President borrowed the Constitution’s opening words of ‘we the people’ numerous times, but his main theme was that the people are fundamentally defined through government action, and his government is here to help you. …
“[T]his suggests a second-term President less interested in bipartisan accommodation than in aggressively pursuing the progressive goals on behalf of what he views as a new center-left majority.”
New York Times liked it…: “[Obama] spoke only obliquely of the persistent gridlock in Congress, where he will face right-wing Republicans whose bleak agenda would weaken civil rights, shred the social safety net and block important programs that could help put millions of jobless Americans back to work. ‘We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect,’ he said.
“Instead, he took the fight to the people, laying out his principles and priorities …
“It’s natural for a second-term president to be thinking about his place in history. There is no doubt that Mr. Obama has the ambition and intellect to place himself in the first rank of presidents. With this speech, he has made a forceful argument for a progressive agenda that meets the nation’s needs.”
Washington Post calls out the “wishful thinking“: “Mr. Obama recommitted himself, as he has uncounted times, to making ‘hard choices’ to reduce the deficit. But he again offered no clue as to what those might entail.
“If that absence suggested a bit of wishful thinking, another sentence suggested a barrelful: ‘A decade of war is now ending,’ Mr. Obama pronounced. That would come as news to the Afghan soldiers still dying at Taliban hands; to the families of more than 60,000 people killed in Syria in the past two years; to French soldiers who have taken on, in Mali, al-Qaeda affiliates who are as much enemies of the United States as of France; to the families of American hostages just slain in a terrorist attack in Algeria. America’s adversaries are not in retreat; they will be watching Mr. Obama in his second term to see if the same can be said of the United States.”