If there had been any doubt, the president’s second inaugural address did confirm he is a dogged collectivist with little appreciation for the dangers we face in the world.
After some overwritten references to the Founding Fathers he proclaimed that “preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.” Really? Economic prosperity may require it. The goal of economic equality may need it. Advancement in mass transit may demand it. But personal freedoms are obtained by limited government, the rule of law and a free market (relatively speaking) where one can achieve his aims and fulfill his personal goals. But this is not the America President Obama envisions.
His aversion to making hard choices about entitlements was obvious: “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.” Really, taking away Social Security for poor people is simply an Obama straw man in the forest of them, which castigates his opponents as the enemy of the downtrodden and relieves him of the obligation to make demands of his own base.
A bit more revealing was the make-believe world in which the president resides. He declared, “A decade of war is now ending. And economic recovery has begun.” A decade of war is not ending; we have chosen to leave. An economic recovery is so anemic as to be unfelt by the millions of Americans still out of work. No call to grow and employ and revive the engine of private sector. Perish the thought.
To oppose him is to be against the common man. (“We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few.”) To question him is to be against progress. (“Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.”) The absence of any desire for political unity or cooperation was noteworthy..
As for foreign policy, there was no evidence we have any actual enemies. It sounds like we are setting up a welfare center:
We will defend our people, and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully. Not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad. For no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice. Not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
The threats from terrorism and from a nuclear-armed Iran do not figure in his vision. It was the most glaring demonstration of the president’s disregard for his role as commander in chief. “No wars; I’m done,” was about it.
And you knew the jaw-dropping hypocrisy would be there: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act. We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.” Well, it would help if he stopped accusing his opponents of bad will and of trying to get us to drink polluted water.
The speech was essentially a call to arms for the left. Memorable lines? I can’t think of any. Indeed, there was no shape to the speech, no defining purpose other than to reaffirm his collectivist bent. It frankly sounded like a recycled convention speech. Its redeeming feature was its brevity; but he had little to say other than his undying faith in the government to do things for us.
It was the most underwhelming and unsurprising inaugural address of my lifetime.