One of the few interesting conservative reactions I saw to President Obama’s inaugural address yesterday came from Charles Krauthammer, the dour prognosticator of doom at the Washington Post:
“I thought it was an amazing speech, and historically very important,” Krauthammer said on Fox News in the aftermath of the speech. “This was really Obama unbound. And I think what’s most interesting is that Obama basically is declaring the end of Reaganism.”
He went on to say that it was a “hymn to big government,” which means he wasn’t listening to the same speech as the rest of us, but then, he’s paid to find the nits to pick at. Judging by other conservatives’ reactions to the speech, they were not impressed, either. And of course there was the unsurprising tut-tutting from a few Villagers and Grumpy Gusses who wanted to hear another call for unity and the end to partisanship in Washington. Yes, that worked so well the last time.
If, as Dr. Krauthammer bemoans, this is the end of Reaganism, then it’s about time. Even Ronald Reagan, the one that raised taxes, the one that supported the assault weapons ban, the one who signed an abortion bill when he was governor of California, would probably be happy to see the end of the era of big business kleptocracy that gave us such wonderful things as Enron and Wall Street rip-offs, the end of serial pollution and the denial of scientific reality, the end of racial polarization, the end of ignorance, intolerance, demonization of the LGBTQ community, and the end of the pursuit of an America that only existed in the half-hour black-and-white sitcoms of the 1950’s, all hosted by tobacco companies. Much of those policies and philosophies still exist and are still trumpeted by conservatives, but at least they’re no longer the mantra of an administration. At least for now.
The headlines of major papers are telling us that “Obama Lays Out Liberal Vision,” but that’s news only if you were not paying attention to the presidential campaign in 2012. There wasn’t a heck of a lot new in the speech. Even the breathtaking inclusion of “gay brothers and sisters” and the mention of Stonewall along with Seneca Falls and Selma was an echo from the stump. That he would be the first president to mention gay rights in an inauguration speech is important, but it is not a “liberal vision” any more than the simple idea of treating all of us as equals, which, as the president noted, was written into the Declaration of Independence.
If this is truly the beginning of a term with “liberal vision,” then there are a lot of people — myself included — who are saying that it’s about time. And if this is the beginning of a term where President Obama will not back down from his ideas before he’s even laid them out in dealing with the intransigent Republicans, its about time for that, too. Let’s just hope that he means it and sticks to it this time.