Albert Jay Nock made famous the device called the Oxometer which is “a device to be installed wherever there is conversation or oratory going on, and the idea is that it automatically separates the bull from the solid substance of the discourse, leaving the latter as a residuum.” If Nock were alive today to use the Oxometer on President Obama’s second inaugural speech, he might agree that “the residuum left after all the bull was racked off would be nil.” So rather than try to separate the bull from the substance, I shall simply get out my trusty, magical progressive decoder ring and decipher the real message behind the circumlocutions in the president’s surprisingly short inaugural. And since it was a pretty boring speech, I’ll spice things up by heckling it line-by-line.
President Barack Obama (B.O.): Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution.
Darrin Moore (D.M.): We’re bearing witness to just how pliable the Constitution is when presidents can do things that would make the Framers of it furious, so long as the Supreme Court can be persuaded that it’s just a tax. B.O.: We affirm the promise of our democracy.
D.M.: We’re not a democracy. All of the Framers used the word democracy in the pejorative sense; to them it meant mob rule, and they knew it failed every time it had been tried. Ben Franklin said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what’s for dinner, and justice is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” America is a federation of states and a republic, sir. Although increasingly we are resorting to ballot referendums ‘propositions’ to do what we expect our elected leaders to do. Lamb, meet wolves.
B.O.: We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.
D.M.: But increasingly your side wants to judge people not by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin, by the size of their wallet and their victimhood status. From each according to his means to each according to his needs, I guess.
B.O.: What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
D.M.: And in President Obama’s bizarro-world he believe he should be eroding our liberties, degrading life and making the pursuit of happiness much more difficult and expensive. Abraham Lincoln, in praising Jefferson the author of our Declaration of Independence, said he introduced “into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that today, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.”
I think you need to go re-read the Declaration again, Mr. President, particularly the part about the some thirty offenses committed by the King were written into the Declaration:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our People and eat out their substance.
B.O.: Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.
D.M.: Today we take a huge step forward in redefining the meaning of those words and making the progressive program for America the reality.
B.O.: For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.
B.O.: For more than two hundred years, we have.
D.M.: More or less, and recently less and less.
B.O.: Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
D.M.: Does that mean that those who work more than half the year just to pay their taxes aren’t slaves of the government?
By the way, Mr. President, NONE of our founders intended the term ‘equality’ to mean ‘equal amount of wealth’, they meant equal treatment under the law. ‘Social justice’ begins by treating people differently with the aim of leveling them out. Our Founders truly understood that no two men are ever really equal except in the eyes of God.
B.O.: Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
D.M.: Translation: we are going to spend a LOT more money on subsidizing rail travel, on our already over-bloated and poorly performing public education system, whether you like it or not regardless whether we can afford it. By the way, how much did it cost to educate Abe Lincoln?
B.O.: Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
D.M.: If businesses are having a tough time thriving in this economy now, just wait until they get a load of the new demands, regulations and costs that President Obama’s going to dump on them. B.O.: Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
D.M.: As Ronald Reagan said, “Democrats fought poverty and poverty won.” Progressives like Mr. Obama believe that government should be the nation’s primary charity. Surely Mr. Obama recognizes that government charity makes people dependent on it and creates an entire underclass of people who cannot take care of themselves (visit Detroit or New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, but since they’re voting for him in droves, you know, more Obamaphones for the misfortunate!
As Russell Kirk said: Conservative support voluntary community quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. Bastiat’s got his back on this one. From his timeless work, ‘The Seductive Lure of Socialism’. “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
B.O.: Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority,
D.M.: Sure, if by ‘skepticism’ you mean ‘undying faith’, I believe you. The very core of his ‘civil religion’ is faith in the central authority and reliance on the experts. His main aim has been to convert voluntary social authority into State power. He’s got a czar for everything. (Although he hasn’t met with his Jobs Panel for over a year.)
President Obama’s view of the role of government is precisely antipodal to Mr. Reagan’s who suggested that issue of our day is “Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.” Mr. Obama, far from being a skeptic of central authority, has been the most centralizing executive in our lifetimes.
B.O.: nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.
D.M.: Ah, come on, President Obama. Your entire administration’s policy has been: “you got a problem? We’ve got a government ap for that!” Everyone knows, I suspect even your strongest supporters realize, that your driving principle is: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”
He just says these kinds of thing so that the talking heads who shill for him can say that he’s trying to reach across the aisle. Please, anyone, name me one power that he returned to the states or to the voluntary community? He’s proudly pushing proposals that push government pretentiously into every facet of Julia’s life, even into her uterus!
B.O.: Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.
D.M.: Uh-huh. Was your stubborn insistence on hard work the reason you removed the work requirement from welfare by executive order? Seriously, sir. I am beginning to suspect that perhaps you’re not being completely honest with us. How, exactly, have you celebrated enterprise? Or did someone else make that happen for you?
B.O.: But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.
D.M.: Orwell’s wordsmith, Winston Smith, couldn’t have crafted a sentence full of more doublethink than that one. First of all, times change and societies change, but truths do not. Principles, by their nature, if they are worth their salt, are timeless. Fidelity to our founding principles doesn’t mean that we should change our founding principles, it means we find new ways to apply them to the problems of today. At bottom, President Obama wants to “fundamentally change our nation” by redefining our founding principles and changing our foundational principles. To what, you may ask? The last four words of that sentence should make that clear: ” ultimately requires collective action.”
B.O.: For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone . . .
D.M.: What does that even mean? It could mean everything or nothing.
B.O.: . . . than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.
D.M.: Thank you, Mr. Obvious. The only reason this line made it into the speech, I am sure is because it reinforces more sinister points lurking behind it which are 1) the Second Amendment was really only about letting ‘We, the People’ have a right to muskets and militias and that 2) we must submit our military to the command of an international governing body. Unilateral action must no longer be allowed. Unless it’s unilateral, unmanned drone strikes, of course.
B.O.: No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future.
D.M.: But from the looks of our falling test scores, one single person has been training our teachers, and that single person is an idiot.
B.O.: . . . or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
D.M.: Mr. President, consider the pencil. The great economic theorist Leonard Read wrote that a pencil is:
“a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.”
B.O.: This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun.
D.M.: That economic recovery began in June of ’09 before any of your policies could have an effect and it is precisely because of your policies that we have had the slowest recovery ever at a dismal 1.5% per year.
B.O.: America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.
D.M.: Mr. President, an endless capacity for risk doesn’t mean we should keep gambling our children’s money on your wealth-redistributing schemes. Our youth may no longer have boundaries (particularly moral ones) but they sure have debt burdens. Each child born today already owes about fifty-thousand bucks. The children of America, if they really knew what to say, would suggest that you call gamblers anonymous, Mr. President. The stakes are getting to high.
B.O.: My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.
D.M.: What does this even mean? We must all act in unison? Can there be no debate? No dissention? No thanks. Call me discordant, but I’ll be this guy.
B.O.: For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.
D.M.: I knew he wasn’t going to get through his speech without a little divisive class war. If he was trying to be a uniter rather than a divider, he might have tried a little Boetcker:
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
Or he could have shown that he learned Henry Hazlitt’s one economic lesson:
“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
B.O.: We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.
D.M.: . . . But that they should not bear the burden of paying for government. That is what the rich are for.
B.O.: We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.
D.M.: Well, this is a nod to the ‘living-wage’ ideologues who think that if we just force companies to pay everyone high wages, we can all be rich and have a pony on Big Rock Candy Mountain. Every time the minimum wage is increased it necessarily causes there to be fewer jobs at that wage and therefore hurts the poor the most. Milton Friedman long ago said it best back when three bucks would buy what eleven dollars does today:
The minimum wage law requires employers to discriminate against persons with low skills. It has always been a mystery to us why a young person is better off unemployed from a job that would pay $2.90 an hour than employed at a job that does pay $2 an hour.
Mr. President, how about you worry less about the minimum wage and worry more about keeping our currency stable. As Uncle Milton told us, “Inflation is taxation without representation.”
B.O.: We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.
D.M.: Well, the whole “equal opportunity” mantra is off-key nonsense too, because in order for someone to have equal opportunities, the children whose parents sacrificed so that their kid can take advantage of the best opportunities must give up those opportunities to kids who–all other things being equal–didn’t do the job of preparing the best opportunities for the kids. As Friedrich von Hayek said, “there is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and trying to make them equal.”
B.O.: We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time.
D.M.: When’s the last time the government repealed an outworn program? Reagan said the nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.
B.O.: We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher.
D.M.: Okay, now we’re talking. How about we throw out the whole tax code and enact the Flat Tax, or the Fair Tax. The tax code we have now has more layers than an onion and stinks just as bad. The inestimable number of taxes that are baked into the price of everything we buy is a sludge which clogs the arteries of our economic growth and evaporates our buying power.
Another good idea that government could borrow from business (although Mr. Obama usually prefers that government usurp power from business and borrow money from China) is the idea of lean manufacturing and process improvement. Newt Gingrich proposed that we employ Six Sigma blackbelts to chop away at the waste of taxpayer dollars and streamline government processes. I suspect Mr. Obama won’t have the stomach or the spine to tell his beloved government employee unions that they must do more with less. The auto unions didn’t like being told that either, and now all but one of them is owned in-part by the government and getting hammered by foreign automakers. Have you driven a Ford lately?
Reform our schools? I’m with you. As President Reagan said:
If you serve a child a rotten hamburger in America, federal, state, and local agencies will investigate you, summon you, close you down, whatever. But if you provide a child with a rotten education, nothing happens, except that you’re liable to be given more money to do it with. Well, we’ve discovered that money alone isn’t the answer.
Yes, let’s introduce them to that wonderful spring that makes every other industry improve quality, lower prices, and increase service; competition. Innovation? Sure! Why not? Look how much better kids are doing from charter schools and other alternative privately-run schools in Detroit.
B.O.: But while the means will change,
D.M.: Because eventually you will run out of people with means to tax.
B.O.: . . . our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American.
D.M.: and which subsidizes all the others who make no effort or have no determination.
B.O.: That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
D.M.: Our creed always had real meaning. That’s what every moment required.
B.O.: We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.
D.M.: I agree that we need to help those who cannot help themselves, but how do we give every citizen “that basic measure of security” without robbing them of their dignity and initiative?
B.O.: We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.
D.M.: Bwahahaha! This from the guy who hasn’t passed a budget in four years and whose last budget proposal was rejected by the Senate 97-0. Seriously. Can anyone name anything this guy’s been willing to cut except the military? After all he’s the guy who said “we don’t have a spending problem.”
P.J. O’Rourke once wrote that ” Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”
B.O.: But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.
D.M.: Spend all you want, they’ll print more.
B.O.: For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.
D.M.: It’s funny how, by remaining true to classic economics, America became the richest nation in the world in very short order, but this president never talks about returning to the policies that actually worked. Instead he revises history to suit his agenda. I guess Orwell was right that those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future.
B.O.: We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.
D.M.: We have the right to pursue happiness in America, but you have to catch it yourself. ~Franklin. True freedom comes only to the extent of one’s own self-mastery. As Edmund Burke knew intemperate men can never be free, their passions forge their fetters. Now, as Martin Luther King Jr. remarked, “we have guided missiles and misguided men.” King also presaged: “A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.”
B.O.: We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.
D.M.: Well, that’s why we buy insurance. If the government steps in and gives everyone a new home after the storm, why would anyone buy insurance? If you can always get health insurance after you get sick, why would anyone buy health insurance when they’re healthy? -Duh. If you really want to help avoid medical catastrophe combined with job loss, help reform our third party payer system from an employer-provided plan to a system where we buy our health insurance like we buy car insurance. We won’t be as stuck in bad jobs because they have good insurance.
B.O.: The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
D.M.: There’s no reason why almost all Americans shouldn’t be making their own health insurance choices and managing their own retirement plans. These government programs make us dependent on pyramid schemes doomed to failure. Social Security is already broke and is already taking in less than it’s paying out–just as seventy eight million baby boomers are retiring. Nobody ever forced them to pay enough in to cover their promised benefits. We have an eighty trillion-dollar unfunded liability on Medicare. This freedom to take risks of which you speak smells an awful lot like generational theft to me.
B.O.: We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity
D.M.: I think he means that our posterity should pay for our debts. After all, he did add $6.4 trillion to the national debt. With birth rates declining–as usually happens when civilizations have reached their zenith and begin to wind down–the smaller emerging generations will have even heavier burdens to bear unless we get a hold of out-of-control entitlement spending today. This is a far cry from Edmund Burke‘s ‘great primeval contract of eternal society‘ in which he charged us with the role of stewards, to leave our world better than we found it:
As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher nature, connecting the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and all moral natures, each in their appointed place.
B.O.: We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.
D.M.: There’s not overwhelming judgment of science. The reputable scientists not on a government grant are suggesting that it’s all a scam. Most of still remember hoaxes when the climatologists have been proven wrong time and time again. We’ve always had harsh weather, hurricanes and forest fires, and don’t think we didn’t notice sophists changing the name from ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change’. Back in the seventies, the same chumps were predicting a coming Ice Age.
B.O.: The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.
Darrin: And very often scandalous. Solyndra anyone? Soylent Green?
B.O.: But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.
D.M.: Do we really think that the venture capitalists who’re backing the inventors to come up with the alternative to oil need the added incentive of a government subsidy? They know that they’ll strike gold if something pans out. When our government is already broke, we don’t need to sweeten the pot with taxpayer dollars.
B.O.: We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.
D.M.: France has been running on more than 70% nuclear energy for my entire lifetime. Germany is abandoning its wind and solar subsidies because they realize they have been Quixotically tilting at windmills.
B.O.: That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.
D.M.: Oil: we have it, we need it, and I am sick of paying our enemies for it. We have proven that we can drill for oil in places like ANWAR and nary an animal on that frozen tundra will be disturbed.
B.O.: That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
D.M.: I think it was John Adams who said: “don’t use oil to power your automobiles, use a solar panel and a pinwheel.”
B.O.: We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.
D.M.: The only way to preserve the peace is to prepare for war. Peace through strength. Weakness invites aggression. Any kid on the playground knows this.
B.O.: Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage.
D.M.: Indeed they are.
B.O.: Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm.
D.M.: God, please don’t let them forget our fallen heroes.
B.O.: But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
D.M.: Yes, but let’s not forget Reagan’s warning not harbor the delusion that “merely by avoiding any direct conflict with our enemies, they’ll stop their evil ways and learn to love us.”
B.O.: We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law.
We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.
D.M.: Iran’s nuclear program continues apace and the range of their missile weaponry continues to extend. Too bad we left Iran’s green revolutionaries twisting in the wind back in ’09.
B.O.: America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.
D.M.: And Comrade Putin will see how far you can bend over for him. How do you say, “Pucker up, buttercup” in Russian?
B.O.: We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.
D.M.: Except in Tehran. B.O.: And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice. We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
D.M.: Kum-ba-yah! Let me grab my bongos.
B.O.: It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.
D.M.: How about we work on nurturing an economy where mothers don’t have to work because their husbands make enough for them stay at home? Then we can stop having our kids raised in day cares where, as all studies indicate, they far worse care that they get from an intact family with mother at home. When the kids are grown, and she goes back to work, stats show she’s not far behind the men. Women are the fastest growing segment of business owners, God bless ’em.
B.O.: Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
D.M.: It’s striking how many people whose parents divorced never really understand the importance of having a father and a mother at home. When so few children see it done right, we shouldn’t be surprised to see so many get it wrong. A few more generations like the last few and nobody will remember why the sacrament of marriage was important in the first place.
B.O.: Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.
D.M.: Mr. President, ever heard of absentee voting?
B.O.: Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.
D.M.: A better way to welcome immigrants? They can pretty much just walk right in today. Are you suggesting using busses to go round them up and bring them in like you do for your voters on Election Day? B.O.: Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
D.M.: Seriously? You actually think you eliminate all the dangers and make everyone love everyone else? This is really just code for, “confiscate guns” otherwise everyone would just dismiss it as kooky-talk.
B.O.: That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American.
D.M.: Life, huh? But not for the most innocent lives, I guess. In America you go to prison if you hurt an eagle’s eggs, but if you want to murder human babies in the womb, Obama would like to help you ought with some taxpayer funds, and then–newspeak of all newspeak–he’ll call it “reproductive health.” And less face it, the moment of birth is such an arbitrary threshold anyways. A person really doesn’t become a person until they are able to speak. For the sake of the children, let’s not have any kids that aren’t cherished by their biological parents.
B.O.: Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness.
D.M.: ‘License’ I hear when they cry liberty! The only virtue they truly tolerate is tolerance. Sorry, but I discern that some ways of life are better than others, and some of us feel we have the right to not to permit certain destructive behaviors in our in our communities. Are we free enough to put healthy restraints upon ourselves?
B.O.: Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time . . .
D.M.: Because we’d really like to try socialism again even though it fails everywhere it’s tried. I guess all his pious rhetoric for our founding principles and the Constitution didn’t mean he was totally convinced they were really the best way for America to govern itself.
B.O.: – but it does require us to act in our time.
D.M.: Four years without a budget. Four months without answering questions about Benghazigate. We know what you knew and when you knew it and we know that you were a primary actor in a massive cover up. But we still don’t know why you did it.
B.O.: For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay.
D.M.: But you’re the king of kicking the can down the road!
B.O.: We cannot mistake absolutism for principle,
D.M.: Translation: bipartisanship and compromise mean “you surrender your principles and let me keep mine.”
B.O.: . . . or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.
D.M.: Are you kidding me? Does he think nobody has been paying attention? Last week you suggested Republicans were “holding a gun to the head of the American people.” Spectacle? Your whole administration is bread and circuses, sir.
B.O.: We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.
D.M.: and mostly incompetent and will cause more problems than are solved.
B.O.: We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
D.M.: The spirit in that Philadelphia hall tried to settle it once and for all: restrain the federal government or it will get too big, too wasteful, too oppressive and too corrupt.
D.M.: blah, blah, blah. You’re a bitter partisan and a rigid ideologue and no fan of the constitution.
B.O.: – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride. They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.
D.M.: yadda, yadda, yadda. It takes less time to actually recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
B.O.: You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.
D.M.: Obviously you prefer the collision course.
B.O.: You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time
D.M.: Your darn right. The debate I’m shaping shows you to be just a run-of-the-mill progressive ideologue using the stale, failed policies of past discredited collectivists.B.O.: – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.
D.M.: A clarion call for the defenders of the Permanent Things! Heck, Ronald Reagan didn’t even do that in his inaugurals!
B.O.: Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright.
D.M.: Each baby born today owes about fifty grand.
B.O.: With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
D.M.: Freedom? He ends it with freedom? It almost sounds like he’s trying to woo the Tea Party. Maybe he’s just trying to lull them to sleep. They may already be.
B.O.: Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.
D.M.: Well, there wasn’t much there there in this speech. It had as much substance as a flowery stump speech, or a State of the Union speech without the details. Only by using the decoder ring could we really read between the lines and see the meaning behind his vapid lofty rhetoric. I am sure many people on the other side were using their decoder rings too and they probably liked it for all same reasons we didn’t, but I doubt anyone will include it among the top inaugural talks ever given. Particularly because history will likely show how much of a joke it is for big spenders to pretend to be budget hawks. He is what we’ve always known him to be; a big spending progressive. Behind every word these people utter are always the same two demands: give us more power and more money. Thomas Sowell sums up our predicament pretty nicely: “If we become a people who are willing to give up our money and our freedom in exchange for rhetoric and promises, then nothing can save us.”
Today’s message from this White House and his party seems to be, “we won, so now let’s stop all this bickering about the proper role of government and let us expand and implement the progressive project that voters have been assiduously opposing for the last forty years.” I am reminded of how eight years ago, after Republicans won reelection of the presidency and expanded their majorities in both houses of Congress, the Democrats didn’t quite do what they are asking us to do today; roll over, play dead. They knew their backs were against the wall and they fought hard, their rhetoric became increasingly coarser, they, got nastier, and more partisan. I don’t think we need to stoop to their level, indeed I think our rhetoric needs to be more elevated, imaginative, and appealing, but we sure could take a page from their playbook and fight them at every turn. And occasionally we need to make fun of them for falling for the fallacies of progressivism. Perhaps daily for equality’s sake.
Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.