Expert Reaction to the Obama Inaugural

Both sides find something to like.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

I've been eagerly devouring reactions to Obama's inaugural, with a particular eye toward a group of people with a special perspective on the address—former presidential speechwriters.

We'll have a couple of cogitations on the speech in our op-ed space tomorrow, but in the meantime, former scribes have weighed in with their thoughts elsewhere on the Internets.

Republicans and Democrats alike seemed to find good things in the address. "It struck my ears that Obama specifically referenced 'wavering,' 'rising tides of prosperity,' and the 'prudent' use of power—words associated with the last three Republican presidents," former Bush (43) speechwriter Ed Walsh writes at Podium Pundits, a new blog written by speechwriters.

Mary Kate Cary, a Bush 41 speechwriter who will soon become more familiar to Thomas Jefferson Street readers, added at the New York Times's Room for Debate:

Overall, it was a good speech that got better as it went. It hit a low point when he was talking about the gross domestic product but soared highest when he spoke of the timeless values and truths like hard work and honesty and courage, to which we must all return. He capped it off with a great ending in the snows of Valley Forge—a peroration, in speechwriters' lingo—that brought the house down. President Obama left us all wanting more.

Of course, it's always good to leave the crowd wanting more.

And added Jeff Shesol, a Clinton speechwriter who has written one history book and is working on another (on FDR and the courts):

It may not be the most inspirational speech he has ever given, but it's surely the most purposeful. It was a display of strength (his) and a summoning of strength (ours).

The extent of the strength may have surprised some of Obama's critics.

What did you think? Click over to Public Opinion, and weigh in with your thoughts.

  • Read more by Robert Schlesinger.
  • Read more from the Thomas Jefferson Street blog.
  • Read more about the inauguration.