CNN correspondent Jim Acosta hyped the forthcoming inaugural address of President-elect Barack Obama during a report on Tuesday’s American Morning: “...Barack Obama’s inaugural address may be more than the speech of his lifetime. Historians and speechwriters say it could be one for the ages, if he can rise to the occasion.” He reenforced this sentiment with clips from a former Clinton-Gore speechwriter who predicted that it’s “a pretty good certainty that you’ll have schoolchildren reading this speech hundreds of years from now” and a professor who claimed that “it’s almost impossible for Obama to fail.”
Co-host John Roberts introduced Acosta’s report, which started 25 minutes into the 6 am Eastern hour of the CNN program, by focusing on the “great anticipation about the inaugural address” and how many “expect it to stand with some of the greatest ever presidential inaugural speeches.” Acosta began with his “speech of his lifetime...one for the ages” line,” and played a clip from Obama’s 2004 speech at the Democratic convention. He echoed Roberts’s earlier lines by stating how “the stage is being set for an address that’s destined for the history books.”
The correspondent then played his first clip from Andrei Cherny, the former Clinton-Gore speechwriter, who made his prediction about future generations reading Obama’s speech. Acosta highlighted how Cherny “expects to hear echoes of FDR” in Obama’s upcoming address. Later, he played a clip from University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, who opined that the president-elect “inevitably...will echo John F. Kennedy” and that “it’s almost impossible for Obama to fail.” Even Roberts gave his own take on Obama’s inaugural address at the end of the segment: “...I expect that this will be a very moving and interesting speech.”
Throughout the report, Acosta shaded the potential of this inaugural address by including clips of famous presidential inaugural addresses, including FDR’s “only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you.”
The entire transcript of Acosta’s report from Tuesday’s American Morning:
JOHN ROBERTS: Just one week now until Barack Obama’s inauguration and we are counting it down. Here’s the clock -- seven days, five hours and 34 minutes and 14 seconds away, and there’s great anticipation about the inaugural address. Many people expect it to stand with some of the greatest ever presidential inaugural speeches. That’s a tall order, even for a gifted orator like Barack Obama.
CNN’s Jim Acosta is live for us in Washington. Jim, we don’t know if, you know, the actual text of the speech will go down in history as one of the greatest addresses ever, but certainly, from a significant standpoint, it will stand among them.
(CNN CAPTION: “Obama Inaugural Speech: Expectations are great for historic speech’)
JIM ACOSTA: That’s right, John. Barack Obama has some big shoes to fill, roughly the size of the ones up on the Lincoln Memorial. And I have to tell you that I did reach out to some aides for Barack Obama yesterday, trying to get some hints as to what this inaugural address may include, and I got nothing. But one thing we can tell you is that Barack Obama’s inaugural address may be more than the speech of his lifetime. Historians and speechwriters say it could be one for the ages, if he can rise to the occasion.
PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA (from 2004): There is not a liberal America, and a conservative America. There is the United States of America.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Barack Obama’s path to the presidency started with a speech -- ended in triumph.
OBAMA: Change has come to America.
ACOSTA: Now, the stage is being set for an address that’s destined for the history books.
ANDREI CHERNY, FORMER CLINTON-GORE SPEECHWRITER: There’s a pretty good certainty that you’ll have schoolchildren reading this speech hundreds of years from now because of this moment in American history.
ACOSTA: Former Clinton-Gore speechwriter, Andrei Cherny, expects to hear echoes of FDR.
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: That the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
ACOSTA: Who also waged an epic economic battle against the Great Depression. Cherny gave the young man who’s helping craft Mr. Obama’s inaugural address, Jon Favreau, his first speechwriting gig.
CHERNY: I think you are going to hear hope, but it’s going to be a hope that is tempered by the reality of the situation, and that’s actually a more honest kind of hope.
ACOSTA: The incoming president has also studied his Lincoln.
OBAMA: There’s a genius to Lincoln that is not going to be matched. People then point to Kennedy’s inauguration speech.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.
ACOSTA: Kennedy -- to many, the gold standard of the television age.
KENNEDY: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
LARRY SABATO: In all of American history, we probably have a dozen lines that are remembered from all those addresses by all those presidents.
ACOSTA: Presidential scholar Larry Sabato says Barack Obama’s challenge is to measure up to the moment -- the nation’s first African-American president in the midst of a national crisis.
SABATO: When you consider it’s the day after Martin Luther King Day, that, inevitably, he will echo John F. Kennedy, that it’s almost impossible for Obama to fail.
ACOSTA (on-camera): One question is whether Mr. Obama will use the occasion to detail a laundry list of proposals for the nation. But historians caution inaugurals are meant to inspire even during difficult times, and there will be plenty of time for detail in the State of the Union and in press conferences and evening addresses to the nation, John. And one thing we can say about this inaugural speech -- he still has one week to go. That’s plenty of time to get this thing right. It’s sort of like when we have two minutes before a live shot, that’s a lifetime in TV. One week is a lifetime in speechwriting, John.
(CNN CAPTION: “Obama’s Big Speech: Expectations are great for historic speech’)
ROBERTS: It certainly is. But, you know, they’ve been working on themes for a long time, so I expect that this will be a very moving and interesting speech.
ROBERTS: Jim, thanks very much, appreciate that.