Television’s modern mantra has been that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, which certainly applies to coverage of Barack Obama’s historic inauguration. Even those filled with pride and enthusiasm over this occasion may feel a little beaten down by the weight of news coverage, culminating with Tuesday’s marathon reporting on the actual event.
This is where “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” has proven invaluable for its media insights, capturing the banality of such coverage by boiling its excesses down to an illuminating rat-a-tat montage. In this environment, somebody getting into a car becomes a topic of endless conversation, and the musings of a presidential historian become invaluable — if only to silence those prone to bouts of verbal incontinence, like CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
For all that, though, the grandeur of Tuesday’s ceremony — the huge, buoyant, seemingly well-behaved crowd — perfectly conveyed what MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann described as a “cold, hopeful morning.” The staggering sea of humanity resembled the cast of a Cecil B. DeMille epic. And with so much grim news of late, a dollop of hope certainly isn’t a bad thing, even if the president-elect phase began to feel like it was giving the interminable campaign a run for its money.
Obama’s acceptance was crisp, efficient, filled with the rhetorical flourishes that have come to define him and phrases like “the price and promise of citizenship,” underscoring how sorely such eloquence has been missed in the White House. In the instant analysis that followed, Fox News Channel’s Brit Hume called the delivery “characteristically flawless.”
Imagery has power in such situations: The scenes of jubilation around the U.S. and the world; the conspicuous gleam off Obama’s flag pin, once a source of controversy; Obama embracing President Bush after his address; former President Clinton warmly assisting his predecessor, George H.W. Bush; Aretha Franklin’s still-dazzling set of pipes; and Vice President Dick Cheney — who strained his back — brought out in a wheelchair.
Yet even in what was surely a pro-Democratic throng, the response to the outgoing administration sounded appropriately polite, although some of the coverage caught portions of the crowd jeering and booing as Bush made his entrance. For the most part, though, generosity of spirit and good feelings carried the morning.
“This is a celebration,” Spike Lee said, interviewed by Robin Roberts on ABC before the swearing in. “I’m just glad to be here.”