Since Crikey’s first wrap this morning, the Inauguration commentary has been pouring in, with initial awe giving way to more critical coverage, especially around Obama’s speech. We advise you to have a geez at the top 10 Inauguration moments and then check back see if you agree with the mainstream media’s anointed ones:

Obama’s radical message. The ritual performed today on the steps of the US Capitol ­honoured tradition in every ­particular – even if America’s new president stumbled over the time-honoured form of words that was his oath of office. Americans, lacking a monarchy, attach a near-sacred reverence to the inauguration that serves as a kind of ­coronation: its precise order of ­ceremonies, its protocols. And Obama did nothing to challenge that today. True, Aretha Franklin sang My country ’tis of thee, and Yitzhak Perlman led a distinctly modern arrangement by film composer John Williams. But otherwise, this was an exercise in tradition.Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

No more Mr. Eloquent. Obama’s inaugural speech had few rhetorical highs. But it was nonetheless a dazzling performance, a dose of tough love from a man who is already hard at work. Did it soar? Did the pilot lift America and the rest of the watching world into a better place by the sheer thrust of his rhetorical engines? No, not exactly. Maybe there was ice on the wings of Obama’s prose, and not just deposited by the knife-slicing January cold. The chill was more a matter of mood: his and the country’s at a moment of unparalleled crisis. So there was no sugar-coating; not much in the way of head-patting and lullabies. What there was instead was great seriousness of tone and substance; the integrity that comes from telling it like it is; a feeling that the time was too tough for cheap lyrics.Simon Schama, The Daily Beast

A Farewell to Words. Obama’s inaugural address showed that he’s moved beyond simply inspiring us. His oratory is now about naming and giving order to the work to be done: roads, the electric grid, ending torture, restoring America’s place in the world. For a few days before the inauguration, I jokingly predicted that President Obama would begin his inaugural address, “My speechwriters and I had a beautiful speech, full of the inspiring images and profound ideas you’ve come to love. But I’m throwing it out, and we’re going to the PowerPoint.” And then, the screens would roll open all across the mall, and like a latter-day Ross Perot, jug ears and all, the president would take us step by step through the financial, energy, health, and foreign-policy crises and lay out the options for solving them. — Mark Schmitt, The New Republic

A serene turn of the page. Barack Hussein Obama had to give up two things yesterday very precious to him: his Blackberry — for reasons of national security — and his ability to have a crafty cigarette. In exchange he got the famous “football” that encodes the triggers for nuclear annihilation, and responsibility for the budget and Armed forces. He looked, as always, almost alarmingly serene. Indeed, his speech was a little too easy on the ear. Obama did strike early in a “collective failure” for America’s recent decline, but veered into easy preferences for “hope over fear”, “unity over discord”. He could almost have said – very nearly did say – the future lay before us while the past lay behind. — Christopher Hitchens,

What Obama’s inaugural speech achieved – and what it didn’t. Historians may remember Barack Obama’s inaugural address as a good speech, well delivered, a call to the United States to rise and fight its troubles. They might say it was unifying, a break with the past, a clever attempt to pull the Democratic Party toward the political center. They could say all those things. But inaugural speeches, if they’re remembered at all, get one line in the books. FDR told us not to fear. JFK told us not to ask what our country could do for us. And President Obama? His speech occurred.Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor

With a rebuke, and a call to unity, the great cleansing begins. Few public utterances can have been more keenly anticipated by more people in more places than the inaugural address of President – President, now, how does that sound? What America, and the rest of the world, heard, ringing out across Washington’s packed National Mall, was a call, not to arms, but to unity, to responsibility and to good old-fashioned, unglamorous, work. It was a speech consciously suffused with remembered cadences: from Abraham Lincoln, through FDR, JFK and Martin Luther King. It was also a repudiation – delicately executed, but without compromise – of a great deal that his predecessor had stood for. — Mary Dejevsky, The Independent

Obama’s sober sermon on the steps. The new president and the throng that turned out to cheer him and hear him today were on two very different missions. The crowd had come to celebrate. Obama had come to deliver a sober sermon. I arrived at the Capitol early, and as the morning progressed, and the time for the Inaugural ceremony grew near, you could feel the anticipation and the excitement building. Chants of “O-ba-ma… O-ba-ma” washed forward from the hundreds of thousands crowding the National Mall, including right after he was first introduced as president. But the new president wasn’t in the mood to be distracted, and cut the chant short with a quick “thank you.” The first line of his speech — “I stand here today humbled by the task before us” — was a solemn reality check. — Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post

Change is coming, just you wait. When the the Marine band struck up Hail to the Chief just after President Obama finished taking the oath of office, it was impossible not to be moved — and relieved. Change is coming. Big change. And not a minute too soon. Despite the emotional setting, Obama’s first inaugural address wasn’t quite the rhetorical tour de force some had imagined. But the tone seemed intentional. It’s time for the poetry of campaigning to give way to the prose of governing, especially as the country confronts a recession, two wars, and a crisis of confidence. — Dee Dee Myers, Vanity Fair

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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