Inauguration Week is also the time when the media casts its adoring eyes on that endangered species called the Washington Wise Man. (This is another venue where women have hit the glass ceiling). Nothing better adds a grace note to a newspaper article or a TV show than a soliloquy by a man who once held a high White House position but now is called upon the explain the sweep of presidential history.

Lobbyist Ken Duberstein, who was Ronald Reagan’s last chief of staff, has been playing that role with brio during the run-up to the inauguration. In recent days, he has been quoted by The Associated Press and USA Today, while also appearing on CNN—and I suspect that his dance card is even more jammed for the coming weekend. Former Clinton aide Bill Galston, a friend now at the Brookings Institute, is also having a nice run in the media limelight.

As a commentator who has been writing about presidential inaugurals since 1985, I have a small piece of advice for my peers in the press box: Jettison a few gushy adjectives on Monday and resist all temptation to compare the Obama speech (no matter how stirring) to Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. As for readers and TV viewers, please forgive us this day of journalistic excess—and you can be confident that we will return to our normal attitude of skepticism by the time Obama delivers his State of the Union address in three weeks.


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Walter Shapiro just chronicled his ninth presidential campaign. He writes the “Character Sketch” political column for Yahoo News. Follow him on Twitter @WalterShapiroPD.