Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We the People





Barack Obama became the nation's 44th president today, gently prompting a nervous Chief Justice John Roberts through the oath of office. Obama's inaugural address had all of the right touches. Using plain, sober language, he described the domestic and international difficulties facing the United States without assigning blame.  He promised the restoration of American global prestige, calling it necessary for the prosperity of the world and the country.

Most importantly, Obama defined the political essence of the country as a successful partnership between government and people, driving the point home with constant and rhythmic repetition of the word "we," as in "We the people." Government as described by Barack Obama is something that above all must provide for and protect for common good. This is the essence of Obama's centrism, which has been widely misunderstood by the left as a cave-in to the right and by the right as a vindication of their philosophy. (If you think I'm making this up, read Chas Krauthammer's weird column of last weekend.)

Obama seeks to do nothing less than widen the political center and move it to the left -- which by that I mean mainstream liberalism. The political discourse of the past 28 years has been so degraded that the rhetorical center of the United States has been moved so far to the right that John McCain is seen as a moderate. Barack Obama aims to bring the country as a whole along, to pressure elected officials into supporting his agenda by appealing to the country at large. I've never believed that he means to seriously reach out to the Jim DeMints of the Senate, the hard right, obstructionist reactionaries who care about ideology first and country second. Rather, he wants to disarm them, to isolate them as extremists do-nothings whose only interest is blocking an agenda that the country as a whole supports. If Obama can close the breach that has developed between the government and the people, his presidency will be significant.

He has a great chance of pulling it off, too. Despite the problems he and the country face, Barack Obama begins his presidency today in as enviable as position politically as any president since Lyndon Johnson  in 1964. After routing John McCain and providing the coattails for a substantial Democratic Congressional majority, Obama conducted a masterful transition that has left the country solidly behind him. Moreover, polling indicates that the electorate grasps that the nature of the economic problems is such that Obama and the Democrats will need time to turn things around.

Even more to the good, the loyal opposition is in a disarray comparable to the Democrats of 1952 and the Republicans of 1932, or, arguably, the 1856 Whigs. In addition to the 59 Senate Democrats, eight Republican senators [Burr (NC), Collins (ME), Ensign (NV), Grassley (IA), Lugar (IN), Snowe (ME), Spector (PA), Voinovich (OH)] come from states carried by Obama. If there's one thing a United States senator values above all, it's reelection: With the exception of Voinovich -- who is retiring -- each of these senators is susceptible to public pressure. 

Barack Obama's new politics rolled over John McCain's old world view. Obama has shown through his transition that his commitment to a new form of politics is sincere. He brings to the job a powerful intellect and an impressive demeanor. Most important of all, the people of the United States and the world support him and want him to succeed. He has an excellent chance of doing just that...

Wasn't it great to see so much happiness at the prospect of a new presidency? Take a look The New York Times album of photos taken by people who attended the inauguration...

President Obama on Hurricane Katrina: "President Obama will keep the broken promises made by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast." More here...

How about Dick Cheney in the wheel chair? It was appropriate that he went out looking like his spiritual and ethical doppelganger:




The First Line above is from John Kennedy's inaugural address, given on January 20, 1961. New First Line soon!...

Leslie Stahl and other talking heads wondered all morning long what former President Bush was thinking about today. This about guy who spent seven minutes reading from a children's book while the 9/11 attacks were underway. What could he have possibly been thinking that would be worth knowing about? If anyone wants to guess, comment away...

10 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

It was the most spectacular inaugral in my lifetime.

From the time Obama gave the speech at I believe the 2000 DNC, I recognized he'd be more than a senator.

Bill Kristol predicted he'd never win one primary, if he faced Hillary Clinton.

K. said...

Is that the same Bill Kristol who wrote recently about "our successes in Iraq"? :)

It was an amazing day. I talked to my father this afternoon, and he reminisced about going to Eisenhower's inaugural parade in 1952, then walking to Union Station to see Truman off on his return train trip to Missouri.

John Hayes said...

Great pix & good analysis-- I'd really welcome the shift you envision a lot; it's truly an exciting time-- I was 4 when Kennedy was elected so I only have the vaguest sense of the "New Camelot" excitement. Otherwise, I thought Carter was decent, but have seen every other president in my lifetime be at best a disappointment. It's so important for Obama to have success.

Love the comparison of Cheney to Barrymore's Henry F. Potter, tho it could be argued this is unfair to Potter.

Ima Wizer said...

I wouldn't hesitate to second guess a moron (Bush) but would like to comment how beautifully written your analysis is! I got shivers! Gosh, you're good!!

K. said...

Gawrsh, Ima,,,I'm blushing.

John: Clinton had a bad hand politically. He had to spend two terms fighting a rear-guard action and did it credibly. If he'd had a Congress like Obama has, things might have been much different.

John Hayes said...

I've read enough on your blog to know you have a lot of knowledge & insight on politics, so you're probably right about Clinton. But I doubt I'll ever really change my opinion of him, a lot of which was not so many reasoned opinion as "gut feeling." Certainly the Gingrichites & the absurd Starr investigation did n't help, butI grew very disenchanted with him after his first term & went for Nader in 96; admittedly, this was easier on my conscience because the polls gave Clinton a goodly lead over Dole.

Do appreciate your cogent political analysis.

Maggie said...

It was one of those simply great days. Hope at last.

K. said...

Thanks for commenting, Maggie. I just looked at your web site and noticed that you live in Ocean Beach. There's a good mystery set there called The Dawn Patrol, by Don Winslow. Much of it is written in surfer patter, but not so much that it's obscure -- it actually keeps things moving along. If you like mysteries, I recommend it.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

most excellent post and thanks for all the great links....I can always count on citizen k to help me get delightfully lost .....

bush thinking -- isn't that an oxymoron?

Rastamick61 said...

K- Isn't Charlie Krauth's weird column a redundancy ? It's bad enough the guy looks like people chase after him with shovels but that dark side creepy arrogance, I just know Hugo Chavez would be smelling sulphur if he was in the same room... I read people on another blog speculating that Cheney had to find a way to get outta standing for a black man, thus the Potter get-up. The gloves gave him a Dr. Strangelove mojo too. Great work here I appreciate your energy since I seem to have none these days...