Sadly we know the Obama boilerplate speech by heart, and so the inaugural address was by now unfortunately straw-man psychodrama. Five years ago, the well-delivered script caused fainting, now it should earn mostly yawns: Fault the well off; invest more borrowed money in more federal programs that have no demonstrable record of success; blame the bad news on others; ignore the $1 trillion-plus annual borrowing; threaten to use more executive orders; demonize the opposition; take bad news abroad and declare it good, and fluff everything up with the hope-and-change cadences that address the trivial and avoid the fundamental.
1.“Them”: We start out in normal fashion: good news (e.g., strong stock market, more oil and gas production on private land) is, of course, due to the president; bad news (e.g., the economy shrank last quarter, unemployment is higher after we borrowed $5 trillion) is due to Bush’s “rubble of crisis” or due to structural impediments “for more than a decade.” In the new math, not having one month below 7.8 percent unemployment (in comparison with the prior administration’s not having one month above that figure) means after “shedding jobs for more than ten years, our manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs over the past three.” Adding some jobs matters; losing more of them doesn’t.
2. Class War: Then we go to the familiar race/class/gender warfare tropes: “No matter where you come from, what you look like, or who [sic] you love”; “make sure government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few”; “asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful”; “the 1 percent of Americans”; “well off and well connected”; “billionaires with high-powered accountants”; the tired old Warren Buffett secretary rerun.
3.They Did It: There apparently must be the usual demonizing of the opposition and the misrepresentation: The Congress is responsible for sequestration rather than Obama who thought it up in the first place. The straw-man “some” makes its usual appearance with the similar trope of those who want to trash Social Security and Medicare. Republicans — not borrowing $5 trillion since 2009 — caused the “manufactured crisis.”
4. The Green Debacle: After losing billions on Solyndra-like federal boondoggles, Obama remains oblivious to the recent bad news from the climate change/Al Gore front. After putting most federal lands off limits for new leases during the greatest American revolution in gas and oil production, as gas exceeds $4 a gallon, he offers the same-old, same-old Gorism blaming floods and heat waves on climate change, as Superstorm Sandy is supposed proof of global warming that then begat climate change that at last begat climate chaos. In sum, the idea is now familiar: Take credit for the private sector’s success on private land by claiming “much of our newfound energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public own together,” and then taxing the newfound private wealth in order to blow it on uneconomical sources of green energy projects, no doubt dreamed up by Solyndra-like favored inside investors.
5. Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better: Much of the problem is the surreal: Limiting gas and oil on federal lands results in presidential credit for more production on private land. Increasing targeted assassinations by drones tenfold and expanding targets to include potential American citizens is working “tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework.” Al-Qaeda is a “shadow of its former self,” and that’s why radical Islamists are popping up in Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. Ignoring Syria is “keeping the pressure on.” Ignoring the Iranian dissidents in 2009 or the chaos of Libya is becoming a “beacon” to the world. The way to deter nuclear Korea and a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran is to reduce our own nuclear arsenal. Chicago gun violence, the shooting of Representative Giffords, or the mass murdering at schools are all attributable to insufficient laws redefining the Second Amendment — not to inner-city handgun violence, liberal probation policies for felony gun violations, lax enforcement of existing laws that allow the unhinged and felons to get guns or escape arrest after using them, not to unrealistic laws about the mentally incompetent, not to the saturation of our society with sick Hollywood-inspired gratuitous violence, and not to the inner-city cultural landscape of male-glorified violence, single-parent child-raising, and endemic illegitimacy. Because we cannot deal with the existential problems, we search for the easy fixes that will have no effect.
In sum, we must “protect our children” and therefore have left them another $5 trillion in new debt.
After five years of these soaring hope-and-change speeches, there are the same three themes I think will keep reverberating: Obama’s soaring rhetoric bears not much resemblance to the reality of the present tough times here and abroad; no one in the administration or the media will go back to see whether last year’s similar utopian ideas ever worked or even saw implementation; and the majority of listeners to the speech either probably believed every word — or were angry at anybody who did not.