The Morning After

Random thoughts:

Harold Meyerson has an excellent column today evaluating President Obama’s (ooo, that still sounds so good) inauguration speech. It echoes a lot of my own thoughts, especially this part:

“The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity but because it is the surest route to our common good.”

We measure the merit of government, he added, not by how wide a berth it gives the market but by “whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.”

With those words, the age of Reagan was ceremoniously but unambiguously interred. For 30 years, the widely shared prosperity created and then enjoyed by the Greatest Generation has been eroding. Obama’s speech was the first presidential inaugural to address the narrowing of American prosperity and to announce the intention to broaden it again.

The age of Bush was also ended, more abruptly, in the very first sentence that concerned foreign and defense policy. “As for our common defense,” Obama said, “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” Moments later, he added, “Power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.”

With that, the neoconservative perversion of American ideals — and American security — was flushed to its reward, and a new doctrine, at once more idealistic and realistic than neoconservatism ever was, was articulated by our articulate new president.

Righties, of course, are disparaging the speech as just so much pretty rhetoric, but it was anything but. This was not a soaring, inspirational speech, but a serious one that precisely laid out the values on which Obama intends to build his administration. Let’s hope he is true to his word.

At the Guardian, Naomi Wolf also praises the speech as “sophisticated” and a marked departure from the fake optimism of recent political speech.

The great leaders in the US weren’t the cheerleaders who promised ­morning in America. They were the ones that forced us to look in the mirror. Since Reagan there has been this tradition, which has become a cliche, of promising morning in America, this fake optimism, we’re the best, the city on the hill.

In fact the great American task is self-scrutiny. Abraham Lincoln gave speeches about the civil war in which he said, in essence, “We’ve brought this on ourselves by enslaving Americans.” Obama’s speech was a diagnosis: “We have to take steps to rebuild our nation.” I’m not saying, “Hooray, he offered a tough, dark recognition of our reality.” I’m saying “Hooray” because he has recognised that the only way to save America is to confront it.

And she’s right. Saint Ronald of Blessed Memory and the recently dethroned Dubya in particular were both all about feel-good rhetoric that didn’t actually say anything substantive. Certainly there is something to be said for holding one’s head up high, squaring one’s shoulders, sitting tall in the saddle, whatever. But a person, or a nation, needs more than good posture.

I liked this comment by Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star:

It was, in short, an address for these times.

To reach for anything more dramatic, anything more Martin Luther King-like given the proximity to the site of the preacher’s most quoted speech, would have cast the spotlight too much on Obama, rather than the dire fix the nation is in.

Obama detractors still mock him as The One or The Messiah, but the irony is that Obama presents himself in a far less messianic way than George W. Bush did. And the difference is that Obama can see a direction. He sees what needs to be done, and he’s telling us that we all need to work together to achieve substantial change. Bush was always thumping podiums and declaring that we must be “resolved,” but he was never entirely clear what we were supposed to be resolved about except to trust him. And need I say that many of these same detractors still genuflect at the mention of Saint Ronald?

There’s a lot of petty meanness going on on the Right today, but I think I’ll ignore it. Let them stew.

16 thoughts on “The Morning After

  1. Nice to see blogs like ‘Crooks and Liars’ and ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’ giving a nod and a wink to The Mahablog today. The recognition is well-deserved!

  2. I’m convinced that righties have an aversion to introspection. Whether from fear of what may be revealed as a result, or out of just plain laziness, or disinterest…they avoid it.

    Naturally, the proclamation-like speeches of a Bush or Reagan, contents of which do not necessitate further thinking to grasp are very appealing. Such speech does not challenge the listener to delve further to understand its content – in fact it is designed to comfort its target. (By the way, without righties propaganda would fall flat.)

  3. Forgot to add this quote from Orwell, “The common man, to be controlled must remain an ignorant fanatic, whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation and orgiastic triumph.” Definitely the tyrannical dictator’s perscription for success.

  4. In no particular order, some things I’ve learned in the past 30 hours:

    1) The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court cannot be fired, but he can be mocked (as “The Dread Oath-Pirate Roberts”).

    2) The human sense of rhythm appears to reside on the X chromosome.

    3) Jason Woo is a designer of Inaugural gowns; John Woo is not.

    4) Rush Limbaugh hates America, and he no longer cares who knows it.

    5) That young Miss Beyonce is tremendously poised.

    6) It’s a miracle! Praise Cronkite! I can watch Katie Couric without puking!

    7) Sting is a ridiculous poser (wait; I’ve known that for 30 years, not 30 hours).

    8) Former Sen. George Mitchell is Lebanese on his mother’s side.

    9) I need to put The West Wing in my Netflix queue, as I believe can watch it now without sobbing.

    10) Never mix champagne with OTC cough syrup. Ye gods.

  5. 11) The numeral 8 plus a close-parenthesis turns into a cool smiley face (that kind of resembles part-Lebanese George Mitchell). But that was unintentional.

  6. Since Reagan there has been this tradition, which has become a cliche, of promising morning in America, this fake optimism, we’re the best, the city on the hill.

    One more reason to say — Fuck you, Peggy Noonan, your magic dolphins and your saccharine bankrupt ideology.

  7. “Obama detractors still mock him as the One or the Messiah”.
    Well of course they do, they have been out smarted, and they have no other response to Obama’s election. They were so focused on the “evil” HRC they were blindsided by Obama. The right doesn’t know how to do battle with intelligence, reason and common sense. In HRC they had their ideal opponent, a figure well known with lots of easy to understand and exploitable baggage. As you point out they and their uninformed electorate only respond to fear and vague optimistic promises (slogans). They didn’t come out and vote against Obama because their fear argument was so obviously based in racism that it could not be sustained in the media (although FAUX sure tried like hell). Yes finally the country didn’t get fooled by slogans like “a thousand points of light” or “Joe six-pack” or “support the troops” or “stay the course” or ahh you get the idea.

  8. Just watched Limbaugh on Hannity, yeah I almost puked, can’t decide who’s worse. Anyway Rush really looks like shit, all fayt and bloated. He was burping constantly, I think he’s definitely back on the shit. He is predickably calling Obama a socialist and really playing to the fear of the ignorant Hannity crowd. I wish someone would write a comedy movie about this fat piece of shit, maybe I could sell one of my classic Uncledad Songs.

  9. Maybe I’m just a sap who’s seen too many Frank Capra movies, but I have to say there was plenty of drama and inspiration in that speech for me. After all these years of Reagan-esque ‘greed is good’ selfishness and Shrubya’s vapid repetition of “freedom” (as if he understood what it meant)??

    Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

    This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

    Seriously — ‘These things are old. These things are TRUE.’ … “the price and the promise of citizenship.” Come on, that’s good stuff.

    Truth, justice and the American way, baby! What is old is new again.

  10. I need to put The West Wing in my Netflix queue, as I believe can watch it now without sobbing.

    Lord, Joan, don’t say stuff like that when I’m drinking – my Coke nearly came out my nose! Hilarious!

    Seriously, I think of myself as a cynic, but I’ve been fairly choked up since yesterday noon. I don’t want this feeling to end.

  11. I’ve gritted my teeth for years as Bush has spoken of delivering freedom across the globe while his actions have made a mockery of the hard earned international regard we’ve accumulated. His apparent deulsional belief that no one would recognize the gulf between words and deed paints a picture of a man so disconnected from reality that there can be no middle ground with such a person — one either shares his delusion or rejects his pretentious yammering as madness.

    Pundits seemed to muse endlessly regarding which one-liners from the speech might someday be regarded as icons on par with Kennedy’s “ask not…” For me the most moving thing about the speech was that it was, at it’s core a rebuttal of the underlying rationale for and ostensible values behind the series of disasters to which Bush subjected the country. It left few stones unturned in that respect. The interesting thing was that this rebuke was accomplished without looking back and simply by holding traditional values (who is conservative now?) up to the light for consideration. Something gets lost once there are attempts to parse it into one-liners.

    If one believes Bush did a heckuva job then the irony would be lost and there is no rebuke. If conservatives cry foul then they are, in effect, admitting that they know what is being countered…so they either don’t understand or must pretend that all is well. Either way, they are marginalized by virtue of the fact that the vast majority of Americans “get it.”

    There’s nuance for you. It is conceptual jiu-jitsu of the highest order.

    Some blogs and talk radio today speculated as to whether Bush could even comprehend what was being said. I wonder whether he was even listening, despite being present. After all, when has he ever listened?

  12. Some blogs and talk radio today speculated as to whether Bush could even comprehend what was being said. I wonder whether he was even listening, despite being present. After all, when has he ever listened?

    Some of the MSM cameras were focused on him when Obama started the foreign policy portion of his speech, and he looked like he had just bit into the wrong end of a dead rat. I don’t know whether he comprehended the content and intent of the words, but his lizard brain sure seemed to understand that he was being dissed.

    Then again, that might have been his “I’m irritated because I’m bored; I should have gone mountain biking instead” look. Who really knows what’s going on in his facimile of a human brain?

  13. Sorry this is off topic, but the Israeli conflict has fallen off the radar everywere, given the innauguration.

    Is it my imagination, or does Muammar Quaddafi make sense here? I spent some time working at an Israeli company a few years back and I heard a lot of political debate over lunch. I believe there are a large number of Israelis who would back a single-state solution. Humble opinion.

  14. The Washington Post has a link about Obama reversing Bush’s policies on the first day. It’s a great one. It makes me smile inside and out.

    When changing the lobbyist rules he said -“It’s not about advantaging yourself. It’s not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients. It’s not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization,” Obama told Cabinet members and senior staff at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. “Public service is, simply and absolutely, about advancing the interests of Americans.”

    ~happy sigh~ finally.. someone understands it

    (still wondering if we can get the minimum wage tied to the salary increases of Congress… cost of living doesn’t go up any faster for them than it does a family struggling to scrape by)

  15. I’m still stuck in how the Right ignores reason in favor of the ‘quick fix,’ the 30 second non-thought followed by the 30 second beginning-middle-it’s-a-wrap.

    This morning, Scarborough (the guy who slimes the early morning FM waves 5 days a week) was on a rant about the necessity of torture in the name of national security and the proposed closing of Gitmo. His coup de grace in favor of torture was citing the Nazis, who he seemed to assume had signed Geneva, use of torture to extract information from prisoners and since they did it, we could also.

    The Right throws this kind of stuff out almost on a daily basis seemingly blind and deaf to the inanity of their arguments. (His co-anchor, by the way, let it ride which was very discouraging since she seems to be a slightly to the left person.)

  16. “Certainly there is something to be said for holding one’s head up high, squaring one’s shoulders, sitting tall in the saddle, whatever. But a person, or a nation, needs more than good posture.”

    Prior to the inauguration, Poppy Bush (Bush41) responded to criticism of his boy “W” (Bush43) indicating that Georgie would leave Washington with his head held high. Adopting Daddy’s manner of speaking “W” returned to his boyhood home, Midland Texas to a crowd of 20,000 along with a veritable rogues gallery in his entourage including the likes of Alberto Gonzalez and his brain, Karl Rove, proudly declaring tot eh crowd that he returns with his “head high.”

    The last time I articulated my cervical vertebrae this act only seemd to involve a few neck muscles, not competence, compassion or moral compass.

    Early in Bushes first term it became apparent how much power a president has to influence either positively or negatively. Just look at that which Bush emboldened. This was something that went beyond conservatism. The word neo-conservatism does not even do it justice. It was beyond nutty…wingnuttism on steroids.

    Now Obama can exert his influence only calmly, peacably, kindly, respectfully and civilly. These are qualities that need emboldening without the posturing, strutting like a rooster or the necessity to keep his fingers in his ears just to demonstrate who is the decider-in-chief.

    What a welcome relief.

Comments are closed.