Soaring and Sinking

President Barack Obama delivers his second inaugural address, January 21, 2013.



And it is clear neither that a decade of war is now ending — not in Iraq or Afghanistan, to say nothing of Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, or Mali — nor that the final settlements in Iraq or Afghanistan will secure U.S. security interests. The Obama administration is not entirely wrong to protest that it inherited a troubled economy from the Bush administration, but it also inherited an Iraq in which the United States was well positioned to achieve its war aims: The biggest project left to the Obama administration was the final negotiation of a status-of-forces agreement to secure what had been accomplished there. The Obama administration did not secure such an agreement, at great cost to U.S. interests. Our former allies in Iraq, including the Kurdish leaders, increasingly are under the influence of an adventurous Iran, where the ayatollahs apparently have not been informed that a decade of war is now ending.

Regarding the critical questions of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the unfunded liabilities of which weigh heavily upon the nation’s economic prospects, the president has reaffirmed his mulish resistance to reform. President Obama likes to think of himself as an heir to the New Deal and the Great Society and likes to say of his administration, “We do big things.” Reforming U.S.-government finances is the big thing that must be done by this generation, and it is the big thing that President Obama resolutely refuses to do, or even to talk seriously about doing. He shows no comprehension of the economic risks associated with the level of debt the federal government is carrying.

Those who were inspired by Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration address did not have a four-year White House record to judge him by. In 2013, that has changed. Unfortunately, little else has: The rhetoric is still soaring, and the country is still stagnating.