President Obama extolled many of the things that make America great in his inaugural address. He focused on lofty and important goals: to make sure that our country is run on the notion of equality for all including women, minorities, the disabled and gays. That we will defend our people and our values both at home and abroad. That we will tackle climate change and see government reform.
The President said, “That is our generation’s task: to make these words, these values — of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness — real for every American.”
With his words this morning, the President joined a list of great American leaders who have praised these central American virtues and ideals to our culture and our nation. And he did so with great conviction and his signature “hope and change” tone that we saw beginning at the DNC in 2004 and throughout his campaign for President in 2008.
There is no doubt in my mind that the President emphasized issues that are crucial to the regeneration and revitalization of America that is so necessary. But I am weary to trust his words, as I was in 2008 as well.
Now we have to interpret the speech in the context of his actions, which sadly involve more polarization, division, attack politics, and class warfare than is healthy. Indeed his whole approach, particularly during and since the campaign, has been to practice precisely the kind of politics he eschewed in today’s speech.
The President has blasted Republicans and shown little interest in any genuine bipartisan cooperation. His latest speech on the debt ceiling crisis and his speeches on the fiscal cliff have shown him to be as much a part of the broken system in Washington as anyone else. The thoughts and ideals of the man who spoke today are out of step with what we have seen before.
To be sure, I am in agreement with the President that we need a more equal society. Income inequality is one of the greatest threats to our society and it is high time that we were all truly equal in the eyes of law and amongst one another. But his rhetoric on this point, and indeed on the need for government reform, does not set out a clear path forward for our nation. We need specificity and detail, not prose. As I have argued before, it is only once the President lays out a clear path forward that we will be able to trust his ability to make the ideals he extolled this morning a reality.
Perhaps this morning’s address was a turning point and we will hear definitive plans for the future in his State of the Union address. The evidence suggests that this will not be the case, though. And although I remain hopeful that something will change, the past four years — and especially the last few months — indicate that I will be disappointed.