Bill Kristol perked-up his ears during Obama’s snoozer of an inauguration speech yesterday to something that has him a bit worried…
I was struck by one sentence: “But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.”
Apparently WaPo’s Michael Gerson was not impressed with the speech either, and has found other annoyances within…
Such polarization has deep roots. Parties, communities and regions have sorted themselves by ideology, producing citizens who operate in separate partisan worlds. Partisan media outlets succeed through the reinforcement and exaggeration of grievances. Most House members represent safe districts in which their greatest political fear is offending those who vote in primaries.
What can a presidential inaugural address do to oppose these centrifugal forces? Probably not much. Maybe admit some mutual fault and call for a new beginning. Maybe direct attention to unifying national values beyond current controversies. Maybe just assert the moral duties of kindness and civility we owe each other in a democracy.
This year, however, the influence of such a speech remains untested because it was not attempted. President Obama set an unobjectionable goal: “a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American.” He asserted that this objective can only be achieved “together, as one nation, and one people.” But he proceeded to define an agenda, in some detail, that could have been taken from any campaign speech of the 2012 election. It involves the building of roads and research labs, promoting clean-energy technology, protecting entitlements from significant change, passing equal-pay legislation and immigration reform.
Those who oppose this agenda, in Obama’s view, are not a very admirable lot. They evidently don’t want our wives, mothers and daughters to “earn a living equal to their efforts.” They would cause some citizens “to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.” They mistake “absolutism for principle” and “substitute spectacle for politics” and “treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” They would have people’s “twilight years .?.?. spent in poverty” and ensure that the parents of disabled children have “nowhere to turn.” They would reserve freedom “for the lucky” and believe that Medicare and Social Security “sap our initiative,” and they see this as “a nation of takers.” They “deny the overwhelming judgment of science” on climate change, don’t want love to be “equal” and apparently contemplate “perpetual war.”
For Abraham Lincoln, even the gravest national crimes involved shared fault. For Obama, even the most commonplace policy disagreements indicate the bad faith of his opponents…
From the Wall Street Journal…
President Obama’s second inaugural address won’t be remembered for stirring lines, but then its purpose seemed to be more political than inspirational. Mr. Obama was laying down a marker that he has no intention of letting debt or deficits or lagging economic growth slow his plans for activist, expansive government.
Inaugurals usually include calls for national unity and appeals to our founding principles, which is part of their charm. With the election long over, swearing in a President is a moment for celebrating larger national purposes. But Mr. Obama’s speech was notable for invoking the founding principles less to unify than to justify what he called “collective action.” The President borrowed the Constitution’s opening words of “we the people” numerous times, but his main theme was that the people are fundamentally defined through government action, and his government is here to help you.
On that theme, the speech was especially striking for including a specific defense of the federal entitlement programs that everyone knows must be reformed. Mr. Obama cited “Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security” by name as “the commitments we make to each other.” Typically, such programmatic specificity is reserved for State of the Union speeches. Mr. Obama almost seemed to be elevating them to Constitutional rights.
Matthew J. Franck at The Corner simplifies…
But the most notable thing about the speech is not what it contains but what it lacks. The overwhelming impression one gets is that in Obama’s America, there is no civil society — no arena of private action, of voluntary responsibility, of free associations of citizens for solving the community’s problems. There are only the government (by default, the federal government, at that) and the individual. This is the “Life of Julia” campaign philosophy rendered in inaugural rhetoric: Without government’s aid in every aspect of our lives, we are lost, we are helpless, we are nothing. Every “we,” every “our,” every reference to “the nation” in this speech was a reference to a government solution to a “problem.” In this vision of America, no families, churches, charities, voluntary groups, or other institutions of civil society make any appearance at all. And when there are only the government and the individual, we know which one will be in charge.
And Fred Barnes…
In effect, Mr. Obama endorsed the entire liberal agenda as the guiding star of his next four years in the White House. He reached out to various interest groups in the Democratic coalition—gays, minorities, feminists, the poor, immigrants. But to Republicans, he offered nothing, not even a vague desire to meet them halfway or reach bipartisan agreements on taxes, spending or anything else.
So there won’t be a “grand bargain” in Mr. Obama’s second term. As for the looming debt crisis, the president didn’t give it so much as an anxious nod. His mind was on growing government.
The speech should debunk two myths about Mr. Obama and his presidency, both trumpeted by liberal commentators and Democratic activists. One is that the president is really a pragmatist and a centrist. Not so. Only an ideologically committed liberal could have delivered the address that Mr. Obama did.
The other myth is that Mr. Obama is eager to compromise with Republicans but has faced unprecedented obstructionism on their part. The speech told a different tale. It showed the president bent on pursuing an agenda with few if any sweeteners for Republicans.
I really don’t think Obama has too much to worry about with the republicans, as they have become quite comfortable at bending over to him.
I thought it was an amazing speech. Historically very important, not memorable. There’s not a line here that will ever be repeated, but I think very important historically because this was really Obama unbound. And I think what’s most interesting is that Obama basically is declaring the end of Reaganism in this speech. Remember, he once said that Ronald Reagan was historically consequential in a way that Bill Clinton was not. And what Obama meant is that Obama had changed the ideological course of the country.
He outlined the liberal agenda, the big government agenda in the future. And Brit [Hume] talked earlier, remarkably there’s absence of any mention of the economy, of deficits, of what outsiders would say is the great challenge of our time headed in over a cliff, a real cliff of debt into a sort of a Greek future. There is nothing of that in this speech. Obama had zero interest in that and this was a declaration that his interest is to restore us to the liberal ascendency of 60 years, that Reagan stopped. He gave us these three decades and Clinton, in the middle of the three decades, said in his ’96 State of the Union address, the era of big government is over. This speech was a declaration that the era of big government is back, I’m the man to do it. A remarkable speech.
But I ask these guys (Barnes and Krauthammer perhaps the exception) How are you so surprised? About half the country has been pointing out this agenda of Obama’s for well-over 5 years … We even formed an opposition group (the TEA Party … which stands for “Taxed Enough Already”, and not some disgusting sexual act) that many of you now quaking and shaking your heads about Obama’s myopic socialist plans joined the left (and the White House) in ridiculing and demonizing as racist and dangerous. You (and the GOP establishment) slammed our candidates we voted for and sent to the Congress as radicals, extremists, and obstructionists, somehow guilty for Obama’s failure to get the country and the economy on track. I imagine it is a bit radical and extremist to try to pull the government back to following the US Constitution, and obstructionist when you vote down and argue against bills, laws, taxes that push us faster down the hill to the republic’s destruction. After four years in office and two billion(s) dollar dirty/mean-spirited/hateful/divisive presidental campaigns YOU are finally a bit suspicious of the guy?? REALLY?!?
If you want to gauge the level of support for Obama’s leadership and Constitutional intellect in these United States in yesterday’s inaugural address by Obama just look to who thought it was historic.
AL SHARPTON: I think his speech was about him setting a tone for where he saw the rest of century going. I don’t think it was about just four years for him. I think he was giving a vision, he thinks in terms, when he talks to us — like Kennedy talking about the New Frontier, Johnson about the Great Society. I don’t think everything he addressed yesterday was about what he wanted to legislate, but about where he wants to see the country go. His vision…
I think the specifics of his four years will come in the State of the Union. But yesterday, I think it was his vision, his I Have A Dream. (Morning Joe, January 22, 2013)
Or maybe it’s old Abe Lincoln, huh?
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews: Reminds me of another second inaugural — Lincoln’s. So much of Lincoln in that speech, the Gettysburg address to the second inaugural itself. I thought was interesting was an attempt to draw a balance. Of course, he’s a man of the progressive side, but, he tried to draw a balance there between a government rule by an elite and a government ruled by a mob, both being a problem. Then he talked about the government we want, which is infrastructure, education, regulation, all the good things, and then recognized that government can’t solve all the problems. I thought that was a reaching-out, if you will…
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd has a broken clock moment, however:
It was a robust defense of a lot of progressive ideals in a way, and, yes, you heard pragmatic pieces to the speech saying, you know, we’re not going to get everything we want, things like that, we do need to learn to compromise. It was pretty clear that he was defending government and defending progressivism in a way that you didn’t always hear on the campaign trail, frankly.
Obama has replaced “I have a dream” with, I have a 237 year socialist plan, and you will accept it and live it. That sure sounds like neo-slavery to me. But hey, Let them eat cake…
Ed Morrissey at HotAir: “Missing from Obama’s great liberal address: jobs”