Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on the Inauguration

I was even happier watching the inauguration proceedings than I thought I'd be. Ceremony works.

The shots of the vast crowd were great. The shots of the Republican leadership were even better. Not so much in a "Yeah, that's right. Kiss the ring, motherfuckers!" sense, although there's some of that, but more from a profound sense of relief and almost bafflement at the peaceful transfer of power. I didn't actually expect John Boehner to bolt from his seat mid-oath and try to knock the Lincoln bible out of Michelle's hands or anything like that. Nonetheless, watching the Republicans not do so, and instead just sit there and smile and applaud, giving at least tacit assent to what was taking place right in front of them... well it felt good.

The speech was largely as expected, but I was pleasantly surprised by this hard-to-miss condemnation of his predecessor:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals... Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Translation: "The thuggery ends with Bush."

I know it's not clear yet exactly what the Obama administration is going to do differently, and of course he's publicly opposed to any legal accountability for Bush administration officials. But the mushy, conservative-flattering Obama of my nightmares does not deliver this line, because if there's one thing wingnuts can't stand, it's the slightest regard for international public opinion. They deny that the Bush years are to be apologized for, but obviously they are and it was good to hear Obama do so in his inaugural speech.

On the domestic front, the speech offered some promising evidence for the theory that "bipartisanship" is, for Obama, just another word for Republican capitulation:

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done...

Casting the opposition to the Keynesian stimulus plan as a bunch of cynics who think America just isn't up to the task of massive deficit spending is a pretty tough line. Those who oppose the plan in good faith may have a right to cry foul, but I don't think the GOP caucus is reading from the same hymnal because they've all been convinced by Peter Schiff. In any case, the line suggests that Obama sees getting to his goal of 80 votes in the Senate as more a matter of shaming the Hooverites than accomodating them.

... What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.

That's right, and what a lot of the commentariat still fails to understand is that Obama's repudiation of "stale political arguments" is not a matter of splitting the difference in the interest of comity. It's a matter of his agenda, which is moderate but decidedly liberal, being so popular as to render the argument effectively over.

The real legislative work is yet to be done, and there is no numerical advantage so large or political tailwind so strong that I'd completely trust Harry Reid or the Blue Dogs not to screw it up, but I feel more confident in Obama's commitment than I did yesterday.

Plus, he's actually president now, instead of that disgrace. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.

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