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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's inaugural speech: A new day, a new tone

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"I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war. Bush's policy of pre-emptive war is immoral - such a policy would legitimize Pearl Harbor. It's as if they learned none of the lessons from Vietnam." --Helen Thomas on the Bush Administration's rush to war in Iraq.

Listen up: Two of the daddy's favorite people discuss President Barack Obama's inauguration and what Obama's words and new tone mean to America for at least the next four years. Feisty, veteran UPI reporter and journalist Helen Thomas, the daddy's favorite White House reporter, analyzes Obama's speech. One of the few reporters who didn't go along with the Bush administration's rush to war in Iraq, this 82 feisty reporter is a columnist for Hearst newspapers. You can read her column in several newspapers, including the Boston Globe and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

is the author of The New York Times bestseller "The End of America" (Chelsea Green) and is the co-founder of the American Freedom Campaign.
44 Takes Office with Blunt Rejection of 43
by Helen Thomas

Looking westward into the sun and speaking to more than 1 million people on the Mall in front of him and to millions more around the world, President Barack Obama delivered a tough inaugural speech that must have made members of the outgoing Bush administration squirm in their chairs.

After thanking President George W. Bush for his service to the nation and for helping during the presidential transition, Obama veered sharply, offering no attempt at sugar-coating, no deeper genuflection toward the Bushes, who left the Capitol by helicopter soon after Obama's blunt speech and headed for Texas.

Instead, Obama hit his theme early and often in his 18-minute address: The presidential inaugural oath is sometimes taken "amidst gathering clouds and raging storms." Now is one of those times, he said.

Obama declared "we are in the midst of crisis" and recounted wars, a badly weakened economy that he blamed on greed on the part of some and "also on our collective failure to make hard choices."

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, business shuttered, he recounted. Health care is too costly, schools fail too many students and we waste our energy.

There was no affable reference to Bush's eight years in office or mention of the wonders of the Bush legacy, nothing warm and fuzzy. It was a putdown, a repudiation of the Bush years.

Obama was just warming up.

Aside from these "indicators of crisis," the nation is on an emotional downer. Our national confidence has been sapped, Obama said, and there is a nagging fear "that America's decline is inevitable and that the next generation must lower its sights."

OK, having painted the gathering gloom, the new president told what was needed to get out of it. Citing past sacrifices by Americans, Obama declared: "This is the journey we continue today."

While the challenges facing us are serious and many and will not be met easily or quickly, Obama defiantly proclaimed: "But know this, America -- they will be met."

The new president continued his indirect criticism of the old regime.

We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord, Obama said. The time has come to proclaim an end to petty grievances and false promises, recriminations and worn-out dogmas that have long strangled our politics.

The time has come, he continued, to "set aside childish things." No particulars were mentioned and there was no hint of emotion from Bush family members in attendance, including both President Bushes and their wives.

But it was difficult to recall an inaugural speech that so harshly described the nation's condition that now became the responsibility of the incoming president. It was reminiscent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1933 inaugural when he denounced "fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Incumbent President Herbert Hoover sat quietly nearby.

So much for the old. And now the new.

The U.S. remains the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth, with productive workers and inventive minds. "But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed," Obama said. "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America."

The state of the economy calls for bold action, to create new jobs and build for growth.

To those who question the scale of our ambitions, Obama challenged, they should recall "what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage."

Cynics fail to understand that the ground has shifted beneath them -- "that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply," he declared.

Obama offered to renew U.S. leadership to all nations that seek peace. Earlier generations understood that "our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please."

Instead, "our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."

The U.S. will leave Iraq to its people, forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan, lessen the nuclear threat and fight global warming.

"For those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broke; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

One watching Obama could only conclude that the page has been turned, dramatically and completely.

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Obama Inauguration: A New Tone.
No More Fake Optimism for The People
by Naomi Wolf

I know that Barack Obama is incredibly smart, and it's not that I'm surprised that he gave a fantastic speech. But I've been following American politics for a long time, and sometimes you see something that works on so many levels that you kind of have to gasp at its sophistication.

This speech marked a sharp line in the sand, breaking overtly with the past administration. That message was clear and intentional. It is a much more confrontational approach than ­inauguration speeches have typically been in America. I am overjoyed.

I thought Obama did three things impressively. Firstly, he sounded a note of our dire circumstances that was in line with a reality that many have been in denial about. That is technically ­brilliant, because he's inheriting a mess, and he's telling people, "We're not going to dig ourselves out of this easily." But also, "Don't blame me for it all."

The second was that he reasserted the primacy of the constitution and the rule of law. With Bush sitting behind him, that was like showtime at the OK Corral. I have written in the past that it is going to take a grassroots movement to support him in reasserting the rule of law, because there are so many vested interests that stand opposed to it. But that was a shot across the bows.

Thirdly, most amazingly, I feel that he dialled down the threat level of the US with just a few sentences. He reached out a hand to the Muslim world. For Obama to say, "I'm not going to demonize you" - that is extraordinarily stabilizing.

On top of all that, he gave plenty of red meat to the right, honorring the ­military and their sacrifices. The choice of the conservative, anti gay-marriage pastor Rick Warren to pray sent a message to the conservative base of the opposition that this is going to be a values-based presidency, that he's not going to dismiss the substantial proportion who opposed Democrats not because they disagreed with their economic policies, but because they disagreed with how amoral our policies have often been presented as being. It is not how I would wish for things in an ideal world. But Obama is playing poker brilliantly, because he has handed over something that is not very valuable. And he did all of this without a single partisan sentence. He spoke about Republican policies, but not Republicans. He isn't missing a trick. I thought it was a home run.

The great leaders in the US weren't the cheerleaders who promised ­morning in America. They were the ones that forced us to look in the mirror. Since Reagan there has been this tradition, which has become a cliche, of promising morning in America, this fake optimism, we're the best, the city on the hill.

In fact the great American task is self-scrutiny. Abraham Lincoln gave speeches about the civil war in which he said, in essence, "We've brought this on ourselves by enslaving Americans." Obama's speech was a diagnosis: "We have to take steps to rebuild our nation." I'm not saying, "Hooray, he offered a tough, dark recognition of our reality." I'm saying "Hooray" because he has recognized that the only way to save America is to confront it.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

She's too liberal.She asked long, disconnected questions. That's why Bush didn't like to call on her.

rainywalker said...

The presidents speech will rank up there with the Gettysburg Address. The president has laid down the guidelines and the American people must answer the call. We must pitch in and help the president and each other. Taking the high road will be painful, but we can do it together.

Stella said...

Helen Thomas rocks. She never fails to ask the most difficult questions she can, and I've seen her do the same to both Democrats and Republicans.

I still feel a sense of joy when I think or say "President Obama" and "Vice President Biden." Obama was straight up in a previous speech when he said (paraphrase), I can't promise change will happen in a day, a week, a month or eve a couple of years: but we will work on it.

So, that's what it's like to have a president with integrity. He deserves our support, even down this long, tough road.

Stella said...

Shame on me: both First Lady Obama and Second Lady Biden are going to be an intergal part of this new government. And I am so glad Rev. Lowrey was at the inauguration: he more than made up for (sorry for the profanity) Warren, who was an utter bore.

patti t said...

Well, I love Helen Thomas and I loved her piece on President Obama's speech. And for me, just to say and write "President Obama" is quite amazing--the day is here--we have a new and relevant President. Millions of people were swelling with pride and hope on Tuesday. Let's hope now that we all keep up the work, the hope and the energy that it will take to move things forward.

CurvyGurl ♥ said...

Helen Thomas is one of a dying breed, reporters who give us the real deal and do so in an unbiased manner. I'm not saying this because of her praise of Prez O, but because she always has.

MacDaddy said...

Anon: I agree she's liberal. I agree she's biased against Bush. But are you going to fault her for that? I don't believe he called her more than once in 8 years.But you need to know that she spent years keeping her mouth shut and now, at 82, feels she can speak her piece, no matter what anybody says. Good for her.

Rainywalker: I agree. It was a great speech. But I think America is going to need some time to take in just how honest it was.

Stella: Though liberal, she asks tough questions of both democrats and republicans. Above all else, she is a very good journalist.

Patti: Yes, I, too, have to get used to saying, "President Obama." And, yes, it will take all of us to get him to succeed.

CurvyGurl: Yes, she's very special. But she's getting over. Where are the other journalist to hold presidents accountable?

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

im still tripping cas bush 44 was nothing like bush 41 - the 41 listened go figure

Stella said...

Thomas is one of the best, MacDaddy. Curvy girl said it best: Thomas is one of a dying breed.

Villager said...

President Obama's inaugural speech will stand the test of time. It was inpiring and it laid out a challenge to the American people as well as the people of the world.

I'm very hopeful for Obama's presidency...

peace, Villager

MacDaddy said...

Villager: Amen!