Monday, January 21, 2013

Sorta political: the second innaugural

It's one of the mysteries of our time that Obama can deliver stinkers like this and all the liberals line up and praise him like we was a second Lincoln. This speech is so mediocre, so delusional.

Let's look at a few lines going through the speech. Here is the opening:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. 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. 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.”
Notice the shift here. He begins with the constitution but very quickly brushes it aside in favour of the Declaration of Independence. That should set off alarm bells. Progressives are notoriously dubious of the constitution and Obama is situating himself firmly in the progressive camp here.

Next paragraph:
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. (Applause.) The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
That first sentence just stinks. The phrase "bridge the meaning of those words" means nothing at all. And again, the patriots of 1776 did not give us "a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people"; it was the constitutional convention that gave us those things and they had to because the patriots of 1776 were far clearer about what they did not want than what would replace it.

Moving along:
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.
Actually, no! There were lots of people, including Thomas Jefferson, who thought that the union could survive just fine with some enslaved and some free. (And where does "half" come from?) And lashes and swords played a pretty small role: guns, ships, generals and big, big money had a lot more to do with it.

There was huge disagreement on slavery. This disagrement was not just between those who wanted to do away with the institution and those who wanted to preserve it. There was also a major fault line between those who wanted to fight to end it and those who deplored slavery but were willing to hold their noses and live with it for the sake of the union.

There is an oddly passive tone here. The implication is that "we learned" when in fact, "they fought" for this long before any of us were born.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.
Again, this is grade A bullshit. A small group of people pushed hard for railroads and highways and schools. Some of these were very good things indeed but one hell of a lot of railroad and highway and school construction was pure pork driven by cronysim of the very worst sort.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
That's a lie pure and simple. Lots of people, including most famously, Adam Smith, had figured this out before the Declaration of Independence was written. It's also one of Obama's favourite fallacies. Notice the implied opposition here: that some people believe the market should be completely unregulated. Who are these people? He's making them up. This is classic straw man rhetoric.

Watch for the "but" here:
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.

But ...
Any time that word appears (also "however" and "nevertheless") it means that you can throw the stuff before the "but" away. He's saying all that to pacify you, to make what he says seem balanced. What he really emans is what comes afterwards:
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.
This is fallacious on so many levels. Notice, for starters, the appeal to consensus. "we have always understood"? Who is this "we" Kemo Sabe? And I love the "always understood". Why then do we need a confrontational system of government if "we have always understood"?

Remember what I said at the top about progressives and the constitution. They can't be trusted to uphold it. Particularly now when so many of them have contempt for free speech, freedom of religion and gun rights.

And notice the problem that the words "collective action" creates. Gee, Mr. President, who is going to lead this "collective"? Particularly as a lot of the people aren't on board about what, if any, action should be taken. And again, go back, and notice how Obama framed issues such as the abolition of slavery and the building of railroads, highways and schools as if they were collective actions where "we" all learned together when in fact they were all born of conflict.

This isn't a speech from a guy who believes in "a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people". It's very much a speech by a guy who believes in getting his way and who holds anyone who disagrees with him in contempt.

Should we be worried? Well, a little. Obama needs to be checked but, fortunately, the people who wrote the constitution he claims to care so deeply about built all sorts of checks and balances into it. And, unless you believe that the weak and unconvincing President who was for Obama's first term was just an act, it's hard to see how he is going to be terribly effective. If he couldn't sell pseudo-centrist policies, and he couldn't, he is really going to struggle pushing an openly progressive agenda.

Assuming he even means to try. Here is my cynical read. Obama is a narcissist, the only legacy that really matters to him is his self image. So he's going to go for the bully pulpit. He plans to run around spouting progressivist platitudes for his second term.

He'll push for the policies too of course but he knows full well he isn't likely to get them, although he will try anyway. But he thinks his legacy will be his words. Secure in his own sense of his own greatness, he means to talk them up. He thinks his words will live on. They won't.

Others have said it before me, but can you remember anything really profound that Obama has ever said? Can you picture these words carved in stone:
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.
Hey baby, want to come with me and "bridge the meaning of some words"? The realities of our time? As opposed to the realities of some other time maybe? On "a never-ending journey". What a hack!

The danger Obama represents is not anything he might do. The problem is the culture of narcissistic mediocrity that he is a symptom of.

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