Biden’s inaugural speech: Banal, slurred, and slightly vicious
Although Chris Wallace of Fox News declared that Biden's inaugural speech was "the best inaugural address I ever heard" in 60 years, I have to admit to being less charmed. His slurred delivery, banal repetition, and vicious edge just didn't work for me. What can I say? I wasn't his target audience.
First, lest you doubt me, Chris Wallace really did go all fan girl on Biden. Mind you, we all saw this coming when he moderated the first debate. Wallace doesn't like Trump, and, in the last year, he stopped trying to hide it:
Fox News' Chris Wallace: "Martha, I thought it was a great speech. I have been listening to these inaugural addresses since 1961. John F. Kennedy's 'ask not'. I thought this was the best inaugural address I ever heard." pic.twitter.com/LVnziRqqEY— Lis Power (@LisPower1) January 20, 2021
Second, let's talk about Biden's delivery. To give him credit, he remained upright and coherent for the entire 22-minute speech. I wasn't sure he could, so a big bravo! for that. Now, before I get to my next point, let me make it clear that I do not believe that Biden has Parkinson's disease, a tragic, progressive nerve disorder. I mention it only because one of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease is slurred, flattened speech.
Listen to Biden, just four years ago, explaining how he got Ukraine to back off investigating Burisma:
It's an older man's voice, but it's still got flexibility and inflection. And now listen to just a few minutes of his inaugural address. His only tool for inflection is volume:
Second, let's talk about content. It was an exceptionally banal speech. Just as Biden carefully avoided substance during the 2020 campaign, he avoided it as well during the speech. There were a lot of tested words ("repair," "restore," "heal," "unity," "unity," "unity") and somewhat meaningless greeting card phrases ("But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us."), but there wasn't a lot of meat on its bones.
Putting aside the trite and repetitive and focusing on substance, this is what was left:
"Democracy has prevailed."
He was standing "on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol's very foundation[.]" (I need to remind you here that, following January 7, the media hastened to describe all Trump-supporters as "white supremacists." Indeed, even before the election, that was the mantra.)
America's racial justice problems have been "some 400 years in the making." (Did I mention that the Biden administration's very first act was to shut down the 1776 Project?)
The planet has uttered "a cry for survival ... that can't be any more desperate or any more clear." He did not elaborate on the specifics.
There is "a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat." That's going to be some confrontation because, by the media's metrics, there are some 75 million white supremacists in America, many of whom are black, Hispanic, and Asian.
"We can deliver racial justice."
America, "once again," will be "the leading force for good in the world." You thought it was good only when Trump squashed ISIS, curtailed China's depredations; shored up our allies; and, at long last, seems to have brought peace to the Middle East.
"We can treat each other with dignity and respect." Indeed, the second half of his speech was a drivel of greeting card platitudes about unity, respect, civility, listening, etc. Having said that, if Biden is able to take those vapid expressions and make them real — if he is indeed able to lower the national temperature and allow us to return to a time of free and honest discourse without having one side dehumanize and threaten the other — he will go up in my estimation.
I have to admit, though, that it would be out of character for Biden, who has been distinguished for his nastiness since entering Congress almost 50 years ago, as well as being out of character for the people with whom he surrounds himself. And of course, it would be out of character for everything the Democrats have been saying and threatening for weeks.
Image: Biden's inaugural address. YouTube screen grab.