Many a president has felt obligated to begin his inaugural address by noting how wonderful it is that in America, the transition of power from one leader to another is accomplished not by force of arms but with a peaceful ceremony, albeit one requiring thousands of people to stand in the cold for hours, for which they are rewarded with a patriotic number from the likes of Kelly Clarkson. There are a few notes any inaugural address will hit: America is terrific, and its people are darn special; these are important times; we have come far, yet many challenges lie ahead. But to hear Republicans talk today, you'd think that after he got all that out of the way, Barack Obama took off his glove, smacked John Boehner across the face with it, then set fire to a photo of Saint Ronnie of Rancho del Cielo.
The folks complaining today (see below) are the same people who on the evening of Obama's inauguration four years ago held a dinner at which it was decided that they should proceed into this new era by opposing anything and everything the new president wanted to do. They then implemented that strategy conscientiously, exploring new frontiers in filibustering and passing on no opportunity to proclaim that the president was an un-American socialist radical bent on destroying everything that is great about this greatest of nations. So when Obama used part of his second inaugural to explain the philosophical foundations of his ideology, just as many presidents have done before (remember "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem"?), they were appalled, outraged, gobsmacked, and deeply, deeply hurt.
Or perhaps that was all just for show. In the days to come, when their own relentless partisanship is pointed out, many Republicans will surely say, "But he started it!"
So They Say
“Whenever I talk about religious liberty, you know they turn it around. All they talk about—they don’t talk about denying religious liberty. They talk about contraception. And I’m not talking about contraception. ... Government does have a role in protecting your civil rights especially today on MLK Day. The man who really came up with the American non-violent protest theory of civil disobedience. It’s pretty egregious that they can’t get any higher than contraception when we’re talking about protecting people’s religious liberty.”
—Virginia attorney general—and likely Republican gubernatorial candidate—Ken Cuccinelli, comparing fighting the contraception mandate to the civil rights movement
Daily Meme: Literary Analysis, Inaugural Edition
- ICYMI, Obama got inaugurated yesterday. If you want to know what happened, but are too busy talking about bangs and Beyoncé treason and Chuck Schumer photobombs, here's The New York Times' CliffNotes version.
- Most liberal-leaning pundit types were delighted with his short speech, far more indicative of the hopey-changey agenda he ran on in 2008 than his first inaugural address. Noam Scheiber speaks for many: "By choosing to start his second term with a case for liberalism, Obama announced that arguing for his worldview isn’t a separate task from governing. It’s central to governing. And that’s a development you can’t cheer loudly enough."
- Over at the Stonewall Inn, one person said, "I thought it was a beautiful speech. And I thought it was important that he basically said that the gay rights movement was a civil rights movement, and it's just as important as any movement that has come before it."
- A happily surprised James Fallows says, "If anyone were wondering whether Obama wanted to lower expectations for his second term ... no, he apparently does not."
- David Remnick's take? "The speech was no match for the two greatest moments of oratory ever heard in Washington—Lincoln’s second Inaugural and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s address, nearly a century later, at the Lincoln Memorial—but, if it is followed by action, it will be counted among the most important American political addresses of the modern era."
- John Judis contends that Obama failed to directly state his views on a strong national government—which liberals need for him to do.
- Conservatives' critiques have been a wee bit stronger, making the uplifting speech sound like something more horrifying than a dubstep mash-up of "Friday," nails on a chalkboard, or a Communist Manifesto audiobook recorded by Van Jones.
- Fred Barnes says the "highly partisan" nature of the speech was a departure from those awesome speeches given by Dubya, Reagan, Nixon, and sometimes-adopted-when-useful Bill Clinton.
- Jennifer Rubin, queen of subtlety and restrained political bias, writes, "It was the most underwhelming and unsurprising inaugural address of my lifetime."
- Paul Ryan, more than slightly miffed that Obama called him out in the speech,complains that the president just doesn't get him.
- Roger Kimball says that the speech reminded him of Britain's World War II leader FAIL Neville Chamberlain.
- Karl Rove opines: "I think the President was basically declaring his administration is no longer about substantive achievements."
What We're Writing
- Sharon Lerner reports on the last abortion provider in Mississippi.
- Amanda Marcotte asks: Why does the ’70s-era image of the white, middle-class teenager as the typical abortion patient persist?
What We're Reading
- If you live in North Dakota, you may have to travel over 300 miles for an abortion.
- The Apple Pie and Machine Guns Ronald Reagan Free Markets Institute for Freedom, Patriotism and the American Way wanders its less-than-academic eyes over the issue of fracking.
- Key and Peele "angry translate" Obama's second-term agenda.
- Eric Cantor was not a fan of the inaugural poem. Neither did these ten people, who were upset because it didn't rhyme.
- Every day is January 3 for the Senate, at least until they figure out the filibuster.
- Jonathan Chait reminds us that the president is not all-powerful.
Poll of the Day
On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, seven in ten Americans think the landmark abortion decision should stand, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. This is the highest support the decision has ever tracked since polling firms started paying attention in 1989. Only 9 percent of Americans think abortions should be illegal under all circumstances.