Barack Obama’s Surprisingly Barbed Inaugural Address

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Over at The Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez writes that the “untold story” of today’s inauguration is the number of conservatives who have “resisted the urge to rain on the president’s parade today.” Her colleagues, apparently infuriated by this act of appeasement, immediately proceeded to unleash a virtual deluge on the president’s parade.

I was amused by that, but then, I’m easily amused. And anyway, I don’t blame them. I’ve heard a lot of chatter today from liberals about how Obama’s inaugural address was “Lincolnesque,” but I think that’s just a wishful reading of what he actually said. Sure, there were plenty of soaring phrases about “we the people” and America’s limitless possibilities, and it was nice to hear the first ever shout-out to “our gay brothers and sisters” on inauguration day, but overall it was pretty familiar stuff for a modern inaugural address.

What wasn’t so familiar was the number of very sharp, very specific barbs aimed at Obama’s political opponents. Here’s a taste:

To Mitt Romney: “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security….do not make us a nation of takers.”

To the climate change denialists: “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

To the neocons: “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

To the voter suppression gangs in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere: “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”

To the NRA: “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.”

To the entire tea party wing of the GOP: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”

Did conservatives take these lines as obvious, personal attacks? You betcha. I would too, if I were them. And while this stuff may have warmed the cockles of my heart, I don’t pretend to have the boundless political generosity of Abraham Lincoln. It appears that Obama, if he ever did, doesn’t have it anymore either.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend