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Post-Partisan? Not Really.

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By Robert L. Ehrlich
Thursday, January 22, 2009

It is difficult to count the many positive messages about America that were broadcast to the world the moment Barack Obama placed his hand on the Lincoln Bible on Tuesday. America haters around the globe had a bad day (for a change). Regardless of one's political association, Obama's swearing-in was a joyous occasion for a country caught in the grip of an economic recession and facing a long, arduous war against terrorism.

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Then came the much-anticipated inaugural address. The soaring oratory met, and in some quarters exceeded, expectations. Not surprisingly, the "usual suspects" really gushed -- which is quite a bit of gushing.

It is also where I part company with so many caught up in the historic nature of the moment but blind to the substance of the speech.

To help divorce myself from the pageantry, I read the inaugural address rather than watch Obama deliver it. My goal was to discern whether the more moderate president-elect survived the transition to president.

The results were decidedly mixed.

A serious reading of the text makes clear that part of the moderate, post-partisan, post-ideological Obama did indeed come through:

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. . . . What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply."

Such thoughts are meant to relegate old-fashioned philosophical battles to a harsh, partisan past -- the change so many Americans say they want in their "new" politics.

But there was also the assurance that the federal government will "create new jobs" and "lay a new foundation for growth."

And this dangerous observation:

"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works." (As though Americans should not focus on whether their government is too big or not big enough.)

Then a nod to class-warfare rhetoric:


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