Obama Promises New Destiny, Work Begins Today: "I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear ..." Well, nothing was more stunning and cathartic than those few words.... [W]hat may have been the happiest crowd ever to grace the nation's capital. A man named Barack Hussein Obama is now the President of the United States. He came to us as the ultimate outsider in a nation of outsiders — the son of an African visitor and a white woman from Kansas — and he has turned us inside out.... And let it be recorded that Obama's first act as President was to correct Chief Justice John Roberts, who managed somehow to mangle the 35-word oath of office, misplacing the word faithfully, as in "faithfully execute the office of President ..." Roberts then mangled it a second time, Obama raised an eyebrow, and Roberts moved on, a bumpy beginning and something of a metaphor: one of the new President's functions will be to correct the mistakes of George W. Bush's benighted tenure. Obama made that very clear in his sharply worded address, which contained few catchphrases for the history books but did lay out a coherent and unflinching philosophy of government.
Nearly 30 years after Ronald Reagan heralded the onset of his conservative age by saying "Government is the problem," Obama announced the arrival of a prudent new liberalism: "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small but whether it works."... We have had 30 years of paeans to the wonders of free enterprise, but Obama made it clear that markets are not an unalloyed good: "This crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."...
The President announced another clean break with the Bush Administration, on foreign policy. Summoning the wisdom of "earlier generations," he said, "They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please." Take that, Dick Cheney — who exited the scene in a wheelchair, looking grim, as if he were about to foreclose on someone. Obama piled on several foreign policy zingers when he denounced the "false ... choice between our safety and our ideals" — a reference to Bush's harsh treatment of prisoners — and in his message to the world: "We are ready to lead once more."
But the tone of the speech was not defiant or angry, or celebratory, for that matter. It was resolute, suffused with sobriety, reflecting a tough-minded realism at home and abroad. Obama made clear that his domestic liberalism would be enacted conservatively.... Overseas, he warned, "those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents ... You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."