PBS: Liberal Slant Made Obama’s Inaugural Address One of Best in Past Half-Century?

Barack Obama’s second inaugural address had a distinct liberal flavor, particularly on social issues, and many media outlets have admitted as much. However, according to quasi-conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, the ideological slant of the speech actually made it one of the best inaugural addresses of the past fifty years.

Appearing on the Monday January 21 edition of the taxpayer-subsidized PBS NewsHour, Brooks acknowledged that Obama did not pose as a post-partisan figure, as he did four years ago. "Now he’s in the fray. He’s picked a team. His team is his party, his belief system." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

The president argued in favor of progressivism, and that, according to Brooks, is what made the speech the stuff of legend: "I really thought it was one of the best inaugural speeches in the past half century, because the speeches that work are making an argument for something. And he made an argument for something."

Whatever happened to the notion of the inauguration as a day when Americans set aside their partisan bickering and celebrate their national unity?

Brooks wasn’t done. Later in the interview, during a discussion about whether Joe Biden might run for president in 2016, Brooks made this grand assertion about the vice president: "He would be out there hugging 800,000 if he could...I’ve never heard him say anything negative about anybody. He loves everybody."

How wonderful to know that we have such a loving vice president. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields heaped on the praise as well, declaring of Biden, "There’s nothing condescending, patronizing about him."

Really? Try telling Paul Ryan, whom Biden did not appear to take seriously during their vice presidential debate last October. See if Ryan agrees that, amid the constant laughter, there is nothing condescending about Biden.

A transcript of the January 21 segment can be found below:


7:33

GWEN IFILL: Did you get the sense he was speaking to everybody, including people who didn't vote for him, Dave?

DAVID BROOKS: Yeah, but making an argument. It was about collectivity, there’s no question about that. Four years ago it was about being trans-partisan, about healing divides, he was sort of above the fray. Now he's in the fray. He's picked a team. His team is his party, his belief system. And I thought he made the case for a very pragmatic, prudential, incremental, but progressivism. A more forthright case for progressivism than we've heard in some time, even more than Bill Clinton ever made. So I thought he raised the debate. And it's good to have this debate. I really thought it was one of the best inaugural speeches in the past half century, because the speeches that work are making an argument for something. And he made an argument for something. And then, you know, I'm not as liberal as he, so I then thought, here's where I differ, here's where I don't. So I thought it was really educational and very provocative.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.