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Inaugural Oratory:

It will be interesting to see whether Obama yields at all to the demands of the weather in his inaugural address. It's been brutally cold in Washington the last few days, and while it should warm up some by Tuesday, it's going to be pretty crisp out there, and many people in the crowd will be hoping that the new President moves things along in his speech. [Fortunately, for those standing in the cold, there are "Constitutional safeguards" ensuring that at least the portion of the events leading up to the swearing-in will proceed on schedule; the 20th Amendment provides that the new President's term in office begins exactly at noon, and and a result the swearing-in really has to be complete by then, or we don't have a President].

On the other hand, you know that Obama's instinct here is to rise to the occasion with a real blockbuster, and that it's hard to make a brief speech a blockbuster. In any event, I don't know about you, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing if he can pull off something special on Tuesday. I cannot for the life of me remember a single inaugural address since Kennedy's — and Kennedy's, whatever else went wrong with his presidency (and plenty did), was a speech that nobody who heard it, live or on TV, would ever forget. Nothing makes me happier about Obama's election than the fact that he has, single-handedly, brought serious oratory, and serious concern for our beloved English language, back into politics, from whence it has been missing for a long, long time.

Speaking of which: Though it takes up a good chunk of valuable Volokh Conspiracy real estate, I hope you won't mind if I reprint, in its entirety, possibly the best, and certainly the first truly great, inaugural address, Jefferson's in 1801. If you haven't read it, or haven't read it in a while, it makes for good reading. It's always refreshing to read Jefferson's prose, and there's an interesting story about this speech — actually many interesting stories, but I'll only recount one of them. The speech is best-remembered for the phrase

"We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans. We are all Federalists."

It struck the perfect note, after an election campaign that was distinguished mostly by its bitterness and discord. [And it's a note, surely, that Obama will sound on Tuesday] What's interesting is that Jefferson's original hand-written version of the speech had it as:

"We are all republicans. We are all federalists."

The official printer inserted the initial capitals in the printed text, and they have survived in all subsequent printings. It actually makes a pretty big difference. He wasn't referring to the two emerging political "factions" (as they were then called), but to larger principles. With the initial caps, he's extending an olive branch to Adams and Hamilton and the other capital-F Federalists. But that's not quite what he had in mind. He didn't actually think that we were all capital-F Federalists - he certaintly didn't think that he was a capital-F Federalist. He was, though, a federalist.

Plus, I love the First Inaugural because it has one of the truly great Jeffersonian sentences:

Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.

FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS,

Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here reassembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire. A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye &mdash when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation, and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking. Utterly, indeed, should I despair did not the presence of many whom I here see remind me that in the other high authorities provided by our Constitution I shall find resources of wisdom, of virtue, and of zeal on which to rely under all difficulties. To you, then, gentlemen, who are charged with the sovereign functions of legislation, and to those associated with you, I look with encouragement for that guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety. But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans, we are all federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

Let us, then, with courage and confidence pursue our own federal and republican principles, our attachment to union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants tote thousandth and thousandth generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed,and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter — with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens — a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace,commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against anti republican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people — a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense,that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.

I repair, then, fellow-citizens, to the post you have assigned me. With experience enough in subordinate offices to have seen the difficulties of this the greatest of all,I have learnt to expect that it will rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the reputation and the favor which bring him into it. Without pretensions to that high confidence you reposed in our first and greatest revolutionary character, whose preeminent services had entitled him to the first place in his country's love and destined for him the fairest page in the volume of faithful history, I ask so much confidence only as may give firmness and effect to the legal administration of your affairs. I shall often go wrong through defect of judgment. When right, shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional, and your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts. The approbation implied by your suffrage is a great consolation to me for the past, and my future solicitude will be to retain the good opinion of those who have bestowed it in advance, to conciliate that of others by doing them all the good in my power, and to be instrumental to the happiness and freedom of all.

Relying, then, on the patronage of your good will, I advance with obedience to the work, ready to retire from it whenever you become sensible how much better choice it is in your power to make. And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.

Update: I couldn't resist commenting on Dr. T's reference to Kennedy's Inaugural Address as "blather." I'm not sure what to say about that, other than "I beg to differ."

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. . . .

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge—and more. . . .

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. . . .

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe. Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are— but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. . . .

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Blather? That's some pretty fine prose, if you ask me — and the fact that pretty much everyone who heard it in 1961 can still remember much of it - well, Dr. T., if you've written anything as good, I sure as hell would love to see it.

Update 2. And for those commenters who especially appreciated Jefferson's text -- hey, you should read my book! Seriously -- you'll like it.

Bpbatista (mail):
I predict that the media will pronounce that whatever comes out of Obama's mouth surpasses The Gettysburg Address, Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and the "I have a dream" speech -- combined. Even if all he does is recite "Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Bear."
1.17.2009 8:44am
SirBillsalot (mail):
I wish a modern president would utter (and mean) this line of Jefferson's speech:


Still one thing more, fellow-citizens — a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.
1.17.2009 8:50am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Jefferson was a good writer but his speech hardly compares to Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

SirBillsalot: I wish a President would say, and mean the following line from Washington's Farewell Address:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible.
1.17.2009 9:50am
David Warner:
DP,

"it's hard to make a brief speech a blockbuster."

Really?
[Yes, really. Your example is, of course, a great speech that was a blockbuster. But I didn't say there's never been one - I said it's hard to craft one. You think it was easy?? DGP]


"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Not brief enough for you? Brevity is the wit of the soul.

"Nothing makes me happier about Obama's election than the fact that he has, single-handedly, brought serious oratory, and serious concern for our beloved English language, back into politics, from whence it has been missing for a long, long time."

Gerson/Bush were seriously concerned, perhaps too concerned, if you agree with Noonan, and in retrospect I suspect I do more than I'd like to admit. However, your continuing blindness/animus toward not only a certain faction itself, but more egregiously the human beings encompassed by it, does little to honor the spirit of Jefferson you claim to long for.
1.17.2009 9:54am
CheckEnclosed (mail):
One could only dream that Obama will use the word "God" as few times as Jefferson did.
1.17.2009 10:28am
MartyA:
"...single-handedly, brought serious oratory,..."
Come now, David. Where is the credit for his writers. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times during the campaign where he didn't use a teleprompter and speak words written for him.
Sure, we all wish him well but lets be realistic. The headlines for the WaPo and the NYT have already been written; his speech was beyond brilliant. Lets see how/what he does/says after the first attack.
[I dunno -- first, my understanding is that he actually writes much (though not all) of his material. But more to the point - even if, and even though, the headlines have already been written, it still actually could be a brilliant speech, and I hope it is.DGP]
1.17.2009 10:33am
corneille1640 (mail):

Not brief enough for you? Brevity is the wit of the soul.

Aye, Mr. Lincoln's is an amazing speech. But it weren't easy, lad.
1.17.2009 10:43am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I'm hoping that when he starts to explain the need for a carbon tax to deal with global warming, that the chattering of his teeth will prevent his completing the sentence.
1.17.2009 10:47am
Anon321:
and serious concern for our beloved English language, back into politics, from whence it has been missing

I hate to pick nits, but there's something amusing about the misuse* of "whence" (which means "from where" or "from which" such that "from whence," though common, is technically redundant) in a sentence about "serious concern for our beloved English language." "Whence it has been missing" or "from which it has been missing" would, to my ear, be preferable.

* Misuse might be too strong. I don't mean to suggest that "from whence" is unintelligible or categorically wrong. I just mean that "from whence" suggests that the writer doesn't really care about the meaning of whence. Which is ok, but amusing when demonstrated so closely to a statement about a serious concern for English.
1.17.2009 10:51am
erp:
The only thing I can remember from recent inaugurations, is Ron Silver (before he saw the error in his ways) standing right behind Clinton, looking up as the air force jets flew by and complaining about the the f****** jets and then correcting himself by saying, and I quote, "They're our f****** jets now!" I bet there isn't a copy of that on tape extant anywhere.
1.17.2009 11:01am
Brian G (mail) (www):
I hope he doesn't stand there and mention global warming.
1.17.2009 11:13am
David Warner:
Corneille1640,

"But it weren't easy, lad."

True, true. The langer, the harder, I'd reck.
1.17.2009 11:15am
sbron:
"...serious concern for our beloved English language"

From the same President who opposes English as the official
language and tells us our children should learn Spanish (note Spanish, not French or Italian or Chinese etc. as a second language.)
1.17.2009 11:17am
texasfox82:
After all of the hullabaloo about allowing teachers to take time out of their lessons to watch this speech (and there has been some of it here in the DFW area), i wonder how many kids who actually give a rats patootie will seeing it *and* paying attention, and how many will be having parents raise hi hell just so they can get a break from the monotony of school life to watch something that most of them will forget five minutes later. I'd hate to be a teacher hearing teenagers debate politics, and there will certainly be some one sided political discussions going on post inauguration by kids who don't understand the difference between shit and shinola.
1.17.2009 11:23am
sbron:
Also, he could certainly give an unforgettable speech if he announced the end, by executive order, of all affirmative action policies.
1.17.2009 11:23am
Dave N (mail):
David Warner wrote:
"But it weren't easy, lad."

True, true. The langer, the harder, I'd reck.
But to quote Mark Twain, at least aphocryphally:
If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.


[Nice quote!DGP]
1.17.2009 11:41am
Midtown:
My take on Jefferson's reference to "we are all federalists. we are all republicans" used to be the same as David Post's. But recent reading has led me to conclude something quite different: Jefferson and his political supporters generally regarded their "Republican" movement as having smashed the Federalists, and they regarded the political environment in 1801 as setting the stage for a complete and satisfying Republican political triumphalism. They regarded the Federalists as increasingly irrelevant to national political discourse, let alone to actual decision-making.

Sorry to inject this cynical note, but it's worth pondering in this case.
1.17.2009 12:16pm
David Warner:
Dave N,

Um, that's my point.
1.17.2009 12:36pm
Kirk:
[Obama] has, single-handedly, brought serious oratory.. back into politics,
Oh good grief. Oratory without content is meaningless prattle.
1.17.2009 2:08pm
MarkField (mail):

From the same President who opposes English as the official
language and tells us our children should learn Spanish (note Spanish, not French or Italian or Chinese etc. as a second language.)


Spanish was Jefferson's fifth language. Didn't seem to hamper him much.
1.17.2009 2:17pm
trad and anon (mail):
Also, he could certainly give an unforgettable speech if he announced the end, by executive order, of all affirmative action policies.
Or he could order a nuclear strike on Moscow, or pronounce himself Supreme Dictator, or ascend bodily into Heaven.
1.17.2009 2:48pm
Joe Hiegel:

Or he could order a nuclear strike on Moscow, or pronounce himself Supreme Dictator, or ascend bodily into Heaven.

Undertake a course of action that should result in the death of the whole of humanity or destroy our system of limited powers and democracy perhaps, but the ascension into Heaven would be met midway through by a Michael Newdow lawsuit seeking an injunction prohibiting rapturing from the Capitol steps.
1.17.2009 3:10pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
No, the "ascend bodily into Heaven" is something Bush claimed to be doing in his second inaugural address. I think it happened right after we were greeted with flowers, as liberators, by the grateful Iraqi populace.
1.17.2009 3:13pm
fortyninerdweet (mail):
Back to the OP, one element of Jefferson's speech I'd like to here in Obama's is the early line,

"..to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents".
My greatest fear all along is the apparent inability of BHO to admit error or weakness - of any typy. A trait I attribute to some degree of latent narcissism. How severe an infection only time will tell. But it is cause for concern, in my view.
1.17.2009 3:47pm
fortyninerdweet (mail):
"hear" sted of here "type" sted of "typy". egads!
1.17.2009 3:49pm
LN (mail):
I remember when Obama said something was "above his pay grade." Conservatives just ate that stuff up! Oh wait, no they didn't.
1.17.2009 3:49pm
Seamus (mail):
the 20th Amendment provides that the new President's term in office begins exactly at noon, and and a result the swearing-in really has to be complete by then, or we don't have a President

Well, if his term begins at noon, we have a president then. Sure, he can't "enter upon the execution of this office" until after taking the oath, but that really isn't a problem unless he gets word about 12:01 that missiles are en route. And if that happens, he can shout, "Roberts! Change of plans! Get your ass over here and swear me in now."
1.17.2009 4:24pm
josil (mail):
It's clear that long speeches do not always equate to "blockbusters." In fact, I'd guess there is no necessary association at all. Certainly, in Clinton's case, I can't think of anything memorable that emerged from his long-winded speeches.
1.17.2009 6:12pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
In any event, I don't know about you, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing if he can pull off something special on Tuesday. I cannot for the life of me remember a single inaugural address since Kennedy's — and Kennedy's, whatever else went wrong with his presidency (and plenty did), was a speech that nobody who heard it, live or on TV, would ever forget.
This attitude disheartens me. David Post, an intelligent person, awaits a "special" speech, even if the speech has nothing behind it (such as Kennedy's blather). Post is excited about Obama's speech, regardless of his actions, attitudes, and ethics. This behavior (giving speech more credence than it deserves) is how con men succeed.
1.17.2009 6:57pm
mockmook:
Hmm, Dr. T, certainly we want leaders who use these moments to re-inculcate to the populace the American story of limited government, liberty, responsibility, etc.

Of course, Obama won't do any of that (well, he'll blather some weak tea version, and also spout nonsense antithetical to liberty, etc.).

That's my "headline" and I'll stick to it regardless what he says, just like the MSM.
1.17.2009 7:29pm
BGates:
I remember when Obama said something was "above his pay grade." Conservatives just ate that stuff up!
The "something" was the question of how soon after conception a fetus or baby has human rights. Obama's response amounted to, "A fetus may or may not have human rights, but either way I won't object to having them killed."

David, what was your favorite moment of rhetorical brilliance from the campaign? Mine was when Obama declared that he could no more begin a 21st year of generous donations to Jeremiah Wright than he could attend the funeral of his grandmother who was uncomfortable around panhandlers and therefore must have been racist.
1.17.2009 7:38pm
Perseus (mail):
Nothing makes me happier about Obama's election than the fact that he has, single-handedly, brought serious oratory, and serious concern for our beloved English language, back into politics, from whence it has been missing for a long, long time.

Methinks your standards are a bit low for serious oratory, particularly if your frame of reference includes Jefferson. And speaking of Jefferson, it's significant that he deliberately refrained from making the sort of popular speeches that Obama and most modern presidents have favored out of a concern for demagoguery.
1.17.2009 9:06pm
Visitor Again:
I'd hate to be a teacher hearing teenagers debate politics, and there will certainly be some one sided political discussions going on post inauguration by kids who don't understand the difference between shit and shinola.

I'd hate to be a teacher hearing know-nothings who think they know everything deriding efforts to get kid interested in the great events of the day.
1.17.2009 10:04pm
resh (mail):
"These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."

Take a bow, Tom. And please know we heard you.
1.17.2009 10:42pm
JM Hanes:
David Post :

"Nothing makes me happier ....."

I recommend that you study actual transcripts of Obama's speeches, before you tout his "serious concern for our beloved English language." He is the master of a rhetorical style which is distinguished less by the words that are spoken than by stirring rhythms, key repetitions and building intensity as the delivery progresses.

It is a kind of messaging that almost any southern fundamentalist would recognize. It is rooted in the same tradition that Obama described in his Philadelphia speech when he asserted that Trinity Church was like so many "other black churches," whose atmospherics "may seem jarring to the untrained ear." As refined more subtly by Obama, however, that oratorical style proved just as mesmerizing to the most elite of intellectuals as it is to ordinary folks in the pews of evangelical churches across the country. The mother of all ironies in this election season, it that the evangelical church communities which produced a Sarah Palin instead are what so many Obama admirers most despise.
1.17.2009 11:28pm
David Warner:
"My greatest fear all along is the apparent inability of BHO to admit error or weakness"

And so the ODS begins...
1.17.2009 11:51pm
trad and anon (mail):
And so the ODS begins...

Begins? I'd say it started when people started ignoring the fact that he's an America-hating Muslim from Kenya. Why do you think he won't show us his original birth certificate?
1.18.2009 12:02am
Lawhawk (mail):
I tend to favor "you shall not crucify mankind upon this cross of gold." Oops, never mind. He lost.
1.18.2009 12:19am
Lawhawk (mail):
One warning for the new President. Don't talk too long in all that cold. There are those of us who aren't buying your high-tone blather anyway. But out of concern for the Republic, remember that one President spoke too long at his inauguration during very cold weather, and his speech lasted almost as long as his entire term of office. Pneumonia's a bitch. So is Biden.
1.18.2009 12:24am
markm (mail):
Darn it, Lawhawk beat me to it! Yes, with Biden as the VP, we definitely do not want Obama to emulate William Henry Harrison.
1.18.2009 12:45am
Illinois born (mail):
For my taste, Obama's Baltimore speech today was preferable to Kennedy's inaugural. The '61 inaugural, though stirring, could be seen as an augur of the errors of the 60's. It was apropos of a Charge of the Light Brigade.
entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens,
the sentiment of Jefferson is more sublime.
1.18.2009 12:52am
Sagar:
Prof. Post:

"well, Dr. T., if you've written anything as good, I sure as hell would love to see it. "

so, is this now the pre-req for someone to criticize another person's work/performance? haven't you (Post) called a movie 'bad' without having yourself made a 'better' movie?

well, Prof. P, if you have ever governed a state or ran for office, I sure as hell would love to know about it!
1.18.2009 2:34am
Sagar:
please make it "... ran for national office ..." above, in case you have run for the student council or some such thing.
1.18.2009 2:38am
Federal Dog:
""My greatest fear all along is the apparent inability of BHO to admit error or weakness"

And so the ODS begins..."


So any concern that a person will not admit error and learn from it amounts to derangement syndrome? Are we really to understand that the guy is the very first infallible person in history, or that refusal to understand his fallibility is acceptable?

Obama's position on the surge, e.g., was clear error, and had we implemented his policy, it would have had grave consequences for millions of people. It's a legitimate concern that he has never shown himself capable of acknowledging those facts. He cannot learn if he cannot admit error. Concern that his psychological needs might trump international security goals is not derangement. The derangement would be in accepting anything the man does as infallible and not open to any questions or critique.
1.18.2009 7:53am
David Warner:
FD,

Both Bush and Obama on several occasions have shown themselves to be quite reflective - to rise to that level requires it. Obama may be too reflective. It does not follow, however, that such reflection must forthwith lead to public mea culpas. That's just not the way leadership works. Watch the actions, not just the words.

Your original statement sounds exactly like the BDS line, with an O where the B was, and is just as erroneous.
1.18.2009 10:02am
Federal Dog:
David Warner:

Thank you for clarifying your position that any questioning is not only "erroneous," but amounts to derangement. I disagree.
1.18.2009 10:42am
David Warner:
Federal Dog,

"Thank you for clarifying your position that any questioning is not only "erroneous," but amounts to derangement. I disagree."

You're construal doesn't pass the reasonable person test. Try again.
1.18.2009 11:17am
Federal Dog:
David Warner:

You said this:

"Your original statement sounds exactly like the BDS line, with an O where the B was, and is just as erroneous."


Here is my original statement:

"So any concern that a person will not admit error and learn from it amounts to derangement syndrome?"


Your words speak for themselves. I am sure that reasonable people can interpret them without your help.
1.18.2009 11:55am
David Warner:
FD,

It's not being concerned in general that is the problem, just as, say, disagreeing with the war was not the problem. It is convenient to claim its the problem when one wants to play the victim, I'll grant you.

In this case, as in Bush's, your expressed concern flies in the face of the evidence, if one admits actions as testimony and not merely words. The Presidency is not a support group.
1.18.2009 4:04pm
dearieme:
"Government.... and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned": from a chap who owned slaves that's a bit rich. O would be hard pressed to be quite so dishonest.
1.18.2009 4:45pm
Federal Dog:
"The Presidency is not a support group"

Since no one has suggested that it is, this is irrelevant.

Obama has been asked on repeated occasions by media questioners whether his position on the surge was incorrect, and he doesn't have it in him to admit that it was. That is not a question of therapy. The inability to admit error when expressly questioned on point conveys important information about his character and fitness for office. It raises questions about excessive self-regard and inability to learn from even obvious error.
1.18.2009 5:34pm
Martha:
But will Obama use the word banana in his address? Some people apparently have a bit of money riding on that question.
1.18.2009 7:59pm
BGates:
In this case, as in Bush's, your expressed concern flies in the face of the evidence, if one admits actions as testimony and not merely words.
That wasn't the standard with Bush. Sacking Rumsfeld and pursuing the surge wasn't taken as an implicit admission of error; his critics wanted the kind of heartfelt confession Stalin used to be able to get out of people.
1.18.2009 8:10pm
TokyoTom (mail):
David, thanks for this.

Note: "tote" probably should be "to the"
1.18.2009 11:32pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
federal:

The inability to admit error when expressly questioned on point conveys important information about his character and fitness for office. It raises questions about excessive self-regard and inability to learn from even obvious error.


Oh, the irony. Does that statement only apply to people in "office," or does it also to apply to other humans, like blog commenters? Because your "inability to admit error" has been demonstrated many times (like here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

By the way, you should show your proof that the 'surge,' and not other factors (like the Anbar Awakening which predated the surge) is the best explanation for the current pause (relatively) in violence. And a pause is all it is. Sunni and Shia started fighting over a thousand years ago. If you think they're suddenly done, because Bush and McCain sprinkled some of their magical 'surge' dust, then I guess you also believe in the tooth fairy.

There is also strong evidence that "the surge has had no observable effect."
1.19.2009 10:59am
PeterWimsey (mail):
* Misuse might be too strong. I don't mean to suggest that "from whence" is unintelligible or categorically wrong. I just mean that "from whence" suggests that the writer doesn't really care about the meaning of whence. Which is ok, but amusing when demonstrated so closely to a statement about a serious concern for English.



Well, given that "from whence" is correct (see: Shakespeare, God (as interpreted through the King James Bible), Dickens, and Brian Garner), I think this point is mistaken.
1.19.2009 11:48am

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