I saw bits of the Inaugural speech by President Obama Monday morning as I waited to see the Kidney doctors at Cedar Sinai. But other than platitudes I did not catch anything substantial. Comments later that night on the news channels were not particularly helpful. I clicked on ABC and listened to the speech in full.
President starts out with the self evident truths from the declaration of independence. Then he goes into the Lincoln era statement that no country can survive half slave and half free. He spoke of protecting vulnerable ones, celebration of hard work and enterprise, collective action needed to preserve individual freedom. Spoke of unity, cheers from crowd when he said a decade of war is ending. Seize moment together, rising middle class determines wealth of nation, need to rebuild infrastructure and schools, reject idea that we must choose between old and young. Freedom is not reserved for the lucky or the few. Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid do not sap the nation, but free us to take risks. Respond to threat of climate change, none can avoid the destruction of storms and fires. Preserve planet commended to our care by God. We do not require perpetual war. Engagement around world reduces suspicion and fear. Support democracy around world. Must be source of hope for poor and marginalized. Justice, human dignity are values we subscribe to, Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, big cheer for saying women need equal pay, gay brothers and sisters need to be accepted equally and immigrants need to be accepted and not expelled. Our generations task is to make values of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness a universal value for all. Cannot call name calling reasoned debate. Rhetorical flourishes, and he concludes.
The speech seems to reiterate his commitment to dealing with the deficit, curbing medicare costs to strengthen system, immigration reform and do something about global climate change. He didn’t mention gun control specifically but he did mention right for all to grow up safe in America. Some talk of infrastructure and school improvement was mentioned and ending wars overseas. Nothing too specific, but a general outline of a direction. He seems to have given up on Guantanamo and didn’t mention the war on terror which is no longer the proper term to use for the campaign against Al Qaeda. He didn’t even mention Osama Bin Laden being killed. Nice of him. He mentioned gays several times, even included Stonewall as a pivotal civil rights date along with Seneca Falls for Women’s Rights, Selma for Black Civil Rights and now Stonewall for Gay Rights. All in all a liberal should be happy, a radical should be suspicious and a conservative unhappy with that speech.
The UKGuardian sees it as an unabashed defense of the concept of collective action in a classic left liberal sense.
The Economist sees the same, with the big tent being a Democratic tent. They see him attempting to corner and corral the Republicans with the power of public opinion and the bully pulpit of the presidency. He is out to complete the social project of Roosevelt, and Johnson in their words.
US News says the speech commandeered the founding fathers for the liberal agenda as a shot across the bow of the ship of the Tea Party and the right.
I tend to think Obama has decided to let his freak flag fly in this term, determined not to be stymied by the right like he was in the last term he is coming out strong with where he stands and his agenda. It remains to be seen if he will be crippled like Clinton’s second term or if he will be able to out maneuver the Republicans and the big money lobbyists, or what is more likely he will make deals with industry like he did for health care reform, giving them advantages in exchange for their silence or support on climate change, immigration, and whatever else he decides to take on. He also has given the right some bones with his talk of budget deficit control, reform of medicare and social security. Gun control was not mentioned but it is the first issue he is tackling and will be a test to see if he has the power to push through reform like Johnson. For instance will he nix the Keystone pipeline or let it pass? The government has decided to wait until May, after the next budget debate, before coming up with its recommendations. The next few months will be interesting.