As is true of almost all Obama’s speeches, the words of his inauguration address are much better when delivered in his accentuated style with an engaged audience than when read. He took on the mantle of a centrist American president. In references to the past, he showed that he is proud of American history, especially its military heritage.
The chief difference between Obama’s speech and Bush’s was that many greeted Obama’s as historic; Bush’s orations were similarly workmanlike but written off as empty and inane.
Obama confirms that he is cognizant that he has historic opportunities. If he governs from the left and engages in the race/class/gender wars, he will end up as a Clintonian re-run. If he transcends that and is willing to take the heat with entrenched constituencies, he, and perhaps only he, can prescribe long-overdue bitter medicine for ill Social Security, deficits, and locked-in entitlements. I think that is what, ideally, we should take his calls for collective sacrifice to mean.
I don’t see the landscape he enters as ruinous. Iraq is quiet now. We are getting hundreds of billions in natural stimulus through crashing oil prices (we saw a similar effect during the early days of the Reagan recovery). It is better for a president to enter office in a down economy than a boom (see Reagan, Clinton, and Bush).