The Washington Post

A puzzling speech

Today is the president’s day. Good for him, his family and his party. Good for all of us as we watch America’s democracy at work, as an example to the rest of the world. Our democracy is a garden that needs tending. We take for granted the peaceful elections, transitions and the acquiescence of the losing side to peacefully coalesce as a loyal opposition.

The president’s speech today seemed very personal. It sounded like he said things he wanted to say without coaching, polling or the input from a committee of advisers who might have wanted to temper the remarks or try to position the president for the reality of legislative conflicts to come.

The president certainly resisted the advice that I’m sure he got to both define his priorities and to challenge Congress to work with him. Perhaps that call will be in the State of the Union speech, which he will deliver soon enough.

Today the president gave a shout-out to the ideological left. He was either letting them know that he was here despite the compromises to come, or he was signaling to his opposition that there would be no compromise and they will face the liberal agenda they have always feared was there, but hidden. This inaugural address may be remembered as one of the most puzzling speeches ever. It asked as many questions as it answered.

Obama’s state-of-the-union address and his budget submission to follow will tell us more about what this president wants to accomplish.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.

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