Barack Obama and the speech that roared
President Obama’s inaugural address is still ringing in Washington ears. Many Democrats can’t quite believe what they heard echo through the icy air yesterday.
The man who had been accused by many of his own followers for being too pragmatic and cowed by carnivore Republicans in his first term used silky rhetoric to effectively read them the riot act with clenched fist.
“We, the people” was the guiding mantra of his speech. He borrowed the famous words from the preamble to the American constitution to toss them back in the face of his fiercest Republican opponents… on wealth, on immigration, on guns, on gay rights and climate change.
Obama used America’s most cherished rhetoric and wrapped it around his own political agenda. He reminded the losers that they had lost the election because they are out of touch with 21st century American diversity.
Without spelling it out in so many words he stated that rich, straight, white males were an endangered species still behaving like the kings of the jungle.
Mitt Romney wasn’t even in the audience to pick up the slurs. He was the first loser of a presidential election to stay away from an inauguration since Michael Dukakis choked on sour grapes in 1989. Of course, Obama also preached unity to a bitterly divided nation, but only on his terms.
Republicans are furious. This is the true Obama we have always warned you about, they thunder. Some are muttering about his birth certificate again. Accusations of un-American activities and attitudes are bound to surface.
I can see Obama’s point. He has been freed from the need for re-election. He has been scarred by dogged Republican opposition to policies like limited healthcare reform that even they once celebrated as their own.
Senator Mitch McConnell once proudly declared that his principal ambition was to render Obama a one-termer. The re-elected president’s revenge may be sweet and understandable.
But inaugural addresses are meant to heal the nation not throw salt in its wounds. Obama likes to compare himself to that other president from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.
His second inaugural address was all about reconciliation at a time of bitter civil war. The situation was far too bloody and Lincoln far too wise to adopt a tone of “Gotcha!”
Today’s divisions are of a lesser nature. But they have almost rendered this democracy dysfunctional. They are consuming the system with cannibalistic vengeance.
Could Obama, the healer in chief, who rose to political prominence on a promise of restoring lost unity, have found more subtle words to make his point while wooing the other side? Perhaps. At least he didn’t lip-sync his words.
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