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Hail to the Chief

Brian Taylor | 11:25 UK time, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Hail to the Chief, the theme song for today. Right up there with "Buddy, can you spare a dime."

It is, genuinely, uplifting to witness the inauguration of a US President from an African-American background.

Seldom, however, has a president entered office facing such a severe financial crisis.

When Hoover gained the nomination for the post in 1928, he forecast America's "final triumph over poverty".

Within months of taking office, the Wall Street crash reduced that optimistic language to sewer gas.

Perhaps Roosevelt and his 1930s New Deal programme most closely match the challenge facing Barack Obama.

Political joy

FDR ended up fighting the wealthy and the Supreme Court in pursuit of his objectives.

It is a measure of the crisis facing the US that there is likely to be far more sustained focus in the early days of the Obama presidency upon his policies for reviving the economy than upon the once startling fact of an African American in the White House.

Entirely rightly, the question to be posed is not "who are you, where have you come from? - but "who are you, what can you do?"

However, for today at least, we might be allowed a rare moment of political joy as Barack Obama takes the Oath of Office upon the Bible used by Lincoln.

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