On the speech
James Fallows says:
This was the most sustainedly "progressive" statement Barack Obama has made in his decade in the national eye.
There was a time when I paid close attention to President Obama's speeches and searched for clues as to how he would tie his policies in with the values stated within it. I have since been schooled by all the smart people of all political and ideological stripes that nothing the president says matters and that the presidency is a largely ceremonial post so I no longer take much time to parse the words.
I will say this: Inaugural speeches are often legacy speeches and based on this speech I'm going to guess that whatever his policies actually were and are, he told us today that he would like to be remembered by most people as a progressive president, not a centrist technocrat. Certainly, it won't be centrists or the conservatives who bestow it on him --- positive legacies are sustained by the members of your own party and ideology. If he wants to be in the liberal pantheon beyond the obvious (and very real) accomplishment of becoming the first African American president and some movement on gay rights, the second term will have to be different from the first. From the sound of today's address, it would seem that he wants it to be. And if that's true, progressives have some leverage.