And now we can breathe again. Dubya is consigned to the dustbin of history. Surely historians will judge him and I can't imagine him turning round his reputation. He left office as the most unpopular president in history and regarded by many - including me - as a strong candidate for the title of worst President (yep, even worse than Nixon). But we'll leave him, lifting off from Washington on what used to be Air Force One and bound for an ill-deserved retirement in Texas.
In his place comes hope and a man whose oratory and presence promises at least as much as Roosevelt and Kennedy. Just as Kennedy did, he challenged America to unite to tackle the big issues of the day. He did not promise peace and prosperity, but gritty struggle and hard graft. Obama faces crisis from day one - domestically and international. As I've noted before, though - he promises so much, but faces so many limits on what he can deliver. In a sense, he is almost doomed to fail - could any man do enough to match the hopes of the people who elected him and the 80% approval rating he currently enjoys?
In his favour, he appears to have a friendly Congress, which always gives a President a flying start - although no President can rely upon his own party to necessarily support his policies. In this case, however, I expect that the Democrats will fall in line and give him a clear run for eighteen months up to the midterms in November 2010. Then, the political geography might shift, but I suspect that the Dems will retain their lead in both houses and take that through to 2012. Reagan had his most effective period during that first eighteen months and this holds true for most Presidents, as after the midterms, re-election starts to loom large ahead and the 2012 campaign starts to kick off.
Whatever else happens, America changed today. It is not suddenly a country free of racial and other divides, but another wall was finally and irrevocably broken down and for that alone, we should raise a cheer.