A conspiracy theorist might say that Chief Justice John Roberts, perhaps George W. Bush's most conservative and most lasting contribution to American life, was trying to psyche out Barack Obama by intentionally mangling the syntax of the oath of office as he administered it to the new president.
But when Roberts fed him the words in the wrong order, Obama seemed only to chuckle slightly, then gestured to the Chief Justice to try again. Nothing was going to ruin this moment – not for Obama and not for the tens of millions of Americans who had been waiting for months, even years, for this moment.
From a dramatic standpoint, Obama's inaugural address was the masterpiece you'd expect from a man whose rise to power was predicated on his oratory. He employed powerful language and vivid imagery, varied his pace, and paused for effect several times. But this wasn't just showmanship: the new president offered some striking and resonant themes in his address.
He set the appropriate tone right away by noting that "every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms." But he also expressed the confidence that Americans badly want from a president taking office as wars rage and the economy teeters on the brink of collapse.
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