However much Obama’s second inaugural speech set him firmly on the side of those who would like to see more collective commitments in American public life – and in that respect it was as assertive a speech as ever given by a President, not even with the exception of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech – the usual Obama opponents are now lining up to carp.
The response from Mitch McConnell, of course, was entirely predictable – his contention that Obama’s speech leads in the direction of “big liberalism” is kind of amusing actually, because he knows the significance of Obama’s re-election is that liberalism, big or small, is more popular than the Darwinian “small conservatism” (really read “small-minded conservatism”) he represents. His comments will go down with whatever Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge said in their 1932 speeches, in the “Who really cares?” column.
More significant, though, is the equally predictable criticism from the firebag left, of which this Nation article is a representative example. Obama presents an example of our hopes for the future, that a young girl born into poverty nevertheless have equal chances for success with others, and dryly responds that, of course, no young girl in America has that chance. Lovely. So we should be telling young girls to stop striving right now?
I wonder if this person would have responded to FDR’s first inaugural address by commenting “Well, actually, Mr. President, we have a lot of things to fear. Fear itself is just the beginning of stuff we have to be afraid of, when you get right down to it. Let me start reading to you from the actuarial tables about the life chances of a kid in Appalachia.” My patience for people like this is pretty short. Now, after Obama’s re-election, at a time when he obviously feels comfortable enough in his power to actually pursue some of the goals we presumably all want him to pursue – now you hit him with this nonsense?
Obama’s speech was bold as inaugural addresses go, and sets the stage for four years of activism and progressive government – everyone in Washington gets that the speech is about Obama asserting he is going to spend political capital and accomplish things he held back on in the previous term, it’s only people whose principal political strength comes from ragging on the president who haven’t seemed to get the memo yet.
My strongest hope is that Obama will defeat both sets of his persistent and unpleasable enemies – Mitch McConnell’s Republicans, and the kind of “leftist” who would write an article like this.