Monday, January 21, 2013
A President Who Has Learned Nothing
by Jonathan S. Tobin
President Obama’s Inaugural Address was well delivered and, as we have come to expect from him, quite eloquent. It had the usual obeisance to the traditions of American democracy and the virtue of relative brevity. Yet there was nothing in it that showed that he had learned a thing in the four years since he first took the oath of office.
The address was a clarion call for the country to get behind the liberal agenda he supports. Fair enough. But, like much of what has come from the White House since November, it illustrated that this president was not interested in compromise or listening to any views but his own. If this speech is to be treated as sign of what will come, the next four years will be filled with more bitter partisan argument and ideological intransigence from the president. Even as many Americans were reveling in the feelings of unity that this ceremony engenders in all patriots, President Obama was throwing down a gauntlet to his foes and saying that he will redouble his efforts to demonize Republicans.
The president had a lot to say about gay rights and global warming, but for those wondering if he had any new ideas about working with his opponents in an era of divided government, there was little sign that he cared do so. He ignored the problems of a weak economy, instead merely saying that it was recovering. Those looking for an indication that he intends to address the deficit—the greatest long-term threat to our continued prosperity and security—got no comfort. Indeed, the president seemed to say that entitlement reform was a nonstarter in a second Obama administration and that class warfare will be a constant. His hypocritical attack on those who engage in name-calling, which he views as the preserve of Republicans, was a graceless note coming from a man whose campaign devoted itself to smearing his opponent last fall.
Looking abroad, President Obama may believe that his second term will be one in which there will be no more war. Unfortunately, the Taliban and al-Qaeda may think differently. So, too, may the leaders of the Islamist regime in Iran whose efforts to get to get a nuclear weapon may have more to say about the success or failure Obama’s second term than anyone else. His mention of “engagement” was particularly ominous, since it was his foolish attempt to make nice with Iran (prominently mentioned in his first Inaugural Address) that wasted most of this first term and brought us even closer to nuclear peril.
But the main takeaway from this speech is that the president isn’t prepared to give an inch on his desire for more spending and taxing or to contemplate the reform of Medicare and Social Security that would allow those programs to endure. If his first term was marred by anger and arguments in which the president rarely treated the opposition as either legitimate or worthy of consideration, the second term may be even worse. The bottom line here is that a re-elected Obama is determined to take this country to the left with a big-government liberal agenda and will not consider any alternative. Elections do have consequences, but no one should think this will or should be accepted by Republicans.
A wise president would take the lessons of the past four years and adjust his policies and shift away from the ideological blinders that he came into office with. But Barack Obama is not such a president. The speech had all the signs of hubris that often lead presidents into the arrogant assumption that they can as they like in their second terms. That leads more often than not to disaster. He may think he can take us back to the era before Americans realized that liberalism was a god that failed. But those who see this backward-looking and extremist stand as a threat both to our liberty and our future should take it as a reason to redouble their efforts to oppose his plans.
Jonathan S. Tobin
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