One of the British TV reporters - I can't remember which, as they all started to sound the same after a while - began by loftily pointing out that George W. Bush is not renowned for his rhetoric. Which made me wonder if he has ever heard any of his speeches before. I only caught part of the inauguration address but once again I was struck by the amazing blend of simplicity and formality. (William Safire: "I rate it among the top 5 of the 20 second-inaugurals in our history.") One more adjective, one more superlative, and it would have tumbled over the edge into purple prose. And as Gene points out at Harry's Place, parts of the speech "could have been written by a member of the pro-liberation democratic Left". Sadly,
Johann Hari - usually an example of a thinking person's left-winger was unimpressed. Just for once, I think he's guilty of a knee-jerk response:
Sadly, George Bush talked yesterday about spreading US values - democracy and freedom - only to sugar-coat the raw expansion of US corporate and strategic interests. Tony Blair and the liberals who thought we could ride neoconservatism to a better world have been duped. It is painful, but we cannot live in a dream world.Nothing would make me happier than if the most powerful state in the world was committed to spreading democracy and toppling vicious governments. It is not; in many places, it is doing precisely the opposite. As George Bush begins his second term with another false cry, it is time to wake up.
On the other side of the spectrum, Victor Davis Hanson (via Instapundit) is a lot more realistic:
This is the first time that an American president has committed the United States to side with democratic reformers worldwide. The end of the cold war has allowed us such parameters, but the American people also should be aware of the hard and necessary decisions entailed in such idealism that go way beyond the easy rhetoric of calling for change in Cuba, Syria, or Iran -distancing ourselves from the Saudi Royal Family, pressuring the Mubarak dynasty to hold real elections, hoping that a Pakistan can liberalize without becoming a theocracy, and navigating with Putin in matters of the former Soviet republics, all the while pressuring nuclear China, swaggering with cash and confidence, to allow its citizens real liberty. I wholeheartedly endorse the president's historic stance, but also accept that we live in an Orwellian world...

UPDATE: But... Peggy Noonan, always a reliable guide to these gala events, thinks it was a let-down. Hmmm. (Subscriber-only link):

"It left me with a bad feeling, and reluctant dislike....President Bush sided strongly with the moralists, which was not a surprise. But he did it in a way that left this Bush supporter yearning for something she does not normally yearn for, and that is: nuance....

...[P]romising moments were followed by this, the ending of the speech. "Renewed in our strength -- tested, but not weary -- we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."...This is -- how else to put it? -- over the top. It is the kind of sentence that makes you wonder if this White House did not, in the preparation period, have a case of what I have called in the past "mission inebriation." A sense that there are few legitimate boundaries to the desires born in the goodness of their good hearts.One wonders if they shouldn't ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded.

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