Shadow Government

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An Inaugural speech backlash?

By Christian Brose Two days after Obama’s Inauguration, it appears not everyone was left happy and moved by his speech. Here is Robert Ehrlich in today’s Post. And here (as well as here, here, and here) is David Frum. As for me, I’ve already detailed my mixed feelings, but the one thing in particular about ...

By Christian Brose

Two days after Obama's Inauguration, it appears not everyone was left happy and moved by his speech. Here is Robert Ehrlich in today's Post. And here (as well as here, here, and here) is David Frum. As for me, I've already detailed my mixed feelings, but the one thing in particular about the speech that I felt was most unfortunate, which left me sadder than I am angry, was the somewhat divisive tone it had at times. Here's what I wrote after the speech:

Other wording, however, struck me as almost divisive. By saying “there are some who question the scale of our ambitions” or “what the cynics fail to understand,” Obama drew lines –- those who get it and those who don’t –- when some minor editing could have bridged differences. He spoke of the economic crisis as “a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some” –- undoubtedly true, but also somewhat too accusatory for an Inaugural. So too with, “We will restore science to its rightful place.” Point taken. But why not “affirm” science or “promote” it, something positive; “restore” just has a chiding quality to it that seems out of place in a speech like this. And as for choosing as his one quote from Scripture the oft-heard “the time has come to set aside childish things” -– well, this seemed both to remind me of a wedding while also unfairly branding people of good faith, on both sides of the aisle, as somehow infantile. Phrases and words like these sadly seemed better fit for a campaign than today’s special occasion.

By Christian Brose

Two days after Obama’s Inauguration, it appears not everyone was left happy and moved by his speech. Here is Robert Ehrlich in today’s Post. And here (as well as here, here, and here) is David Frum. As for me, I’ve already detailed my mixed feelings, but the one thing in particular about the speech that I felt was most unfortunate, which left me sadder than I am angry, was the somewhat divisive tone it had at times. Here’s what I wrote after the speech:

Other wording, however, struck me as almost divisive. By saying “there are some who question the scale of our ambitions” or “what the cynics fail to understand,” Obama drew lines –- those who get it and those who don’t –- when some minor editing could have bridged differences. He spoke of the economic crisis as “a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some” –- undoubtedly true, but also somewhat too accusatory for an Inaugural. So too with, “We will restore science to its rightful place.” Point taken. But why not “affirm” science or “promote” it, something positive; “restore” just has a chiding quality to it that seems out of place in a speech like this. And as for choosing as his one quote from Scripture the oft-heard “the time has come to set aside childish things” -– well, this seemed both to remind me of a wedding while also unfairly branding people of good faith, on both sides of the aisle, as somehow infantile. Phrases and words like these sadly seemed better fit for a campaign than today’s special occasion.

Whatever you think about George W. Bush, and my thoughts on him too are decidedly mixed, taking shots at the other guy, veiled or overt, consciously or not, on such an historic day, just seems like bad manners to me.

So I would ask my fellow bloggers, as well as our readers: Was anyone else rubbed the wrong way by the speech, for whatever reason?

Christian Brose is a senior editor at Foreign Policy. He served as chief speechwriter and policy advisor for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2005 to 2008, and as speechwriter for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2004 to 2005.

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