Today, a less popular, but in some ways, stronger Barack Obama will become our president for four more years -- well, kinda. Sure, he already took the oath yesterday, but that was just the wedding ceremony without the reception. Today's the party.
So what can we expect? Exactly that: a party. If history's any indication, inaugural addresses carry more platitude than policy, more bombast than substance. So while discontent and violence roils across northern and western Africa, while high unemployment becomes endemic, and the NRA sounds it's giant rifle conch against gun control advocates, Barack Obama will barely cover anything specifically important.
Expectation Number One: He's going to be happy Barry
By now, we've seen a lot of Barries. We've seen him stoic during Hurricane Sandy, we've seen him tearful and emotive following Sandy Hook, we've seen annoyed (many, many times) whenever anyone, anywhere, dares to interrupt him.
And though he's grown more pugnacious in recent weeks, abandoning the unifying rhetoric that made him famous, today his conciliatory side will emerge once more. He'll acknowledge the gridlock in Washington, gently chide Republicans for their obstination, but he will quickly move on to things that make us one people.
Expectation Number Two: He's going to be relaxed Barry
All presidents excel at different areas. Bill Clinton was remarkable in small towns, gladhanding and aw-shuck-ing his way through a crowd. George W. Bush actually gave a damned fine press conference, deploying self-deprecation and humor to repel reporters' attacks. Barack Obama, meanwhile, loves the theatrics and attention built into a giant speech.
These are the moments that he's best at. Obama will never have that people's touch like Reagan or Clinton. But he can inspire and move us with oration like few -- if any -- have done before him.
Expectation Number Three:
He's going to be Policy Barry OMG Have You Seen Michelle Obama's Bangs!?!?
Sigh. Here's what you can really expect: A LOT of conversation about Michelle Obama's new hairdo. She does indeed look fab, and USA Today is here to let you know: The World Reacts To Michelle Obama's Bangs.
So whatever else Barack Obama says today -- and though it may make it into the history books -- today, and for at least another week, everything will be about The Bangs.
Follow the writer @terrence_mccoy