Wednesday January 23, 2013

President Barack Obama’s second inauguration went pretty much as expected: Lots of pomp and circumstance, a grand parade, and a speech that touched on all the major issues he has been talking about for months now.

On economic disparity: "For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class."

On the tax code, school reform, and new technology: "We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher."

On health care and the deficit: "We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future."

On helping the most vulnerable: "We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm."

On climate change and sustainable energy: "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations ... The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks."

On equality for all: "Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

On political compromise vs. gridlock: "We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall."

Just as predictable as all of Obama’s talking points is the reaction to his speech from conservative pundits. Many are saying it confirms his liberal ideology and they complain that he is determined to move the country further to the left.

Stephen Hayes from the Weekly Standard, for example, complains that "Obama breezed past the costs of an ever-growing public sector and made only passing mention of the country’s most urgent problem as he took the oath to lead it: debt."

To be fair, Obama made only passing mention of all the many issues touched upon in his speech. There are many challenges facing America today, but there’s only so much you can say in a 15-minute oratory. And besides, the inauguration is not the time for laying out detailed legislative proposals. That’s what the State of the Union is for.

Another conservative, John Hinderaker at the Powerline blog, criticized Obama for ignoring the issue of joblessness altogether. He said the fact that "Obama found it unnecessary to address the issue that most Americans rate as the most vital facing the country is just one more indication of how badly Obama has polarized America as he begins his second term."

First of all, Obama did discuss jobs, but he did it in terms of investing in new technology and being a world leader in developing sustainable energy sources and tackling the challenge of climate change. Furthermore, the idea of a conservative accusing Obama of polarizing America is reminiscent of that old pot vs. kettle proverb.

The criticism goes on, but what it all boils down to is sour grapes. That’s to be expected. If the roles were reversed and it was Mitt Romney delivering this week’s inaugural address then it would be liberals on the attack.

Both sides claim to want the same thing -- to do what’s best for America. It’s just that they differ in how to achieve that end goal. Conservatives complain that Obama’s progressive approach takes the country too far down the left road.

In case they’ve forgotten, or many they’re still in denial, that’s what the majority of voters want. Obama didn’t say anything different in his inauguration than what he repeatedly stumped on the campaign trail several months ago. Whether they like it or not, conservatives need to accept that this is the direction the majority of the voters decided upon.