Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Address: The Day After

It's true that yesterday's speech wasn't Obama's "showiest"... and I agree that it didn't "write its own page in the history books" by it's rhetorical merits alone. It may be that Obama is still stinging from criticisms that his speeches were all flash and no substance... or it just may be that now that he is President(huzzah!), it's time to lay out how he's going to govern in no uncertain terms. It was a call for us to grow up as a nation and to take personal responsibility for facing daunting challenges, and its honesty in that regard is why I still think it was an excellent speech... even after being separated from the hype for a day. My favorite passage of the speech was the following:
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.
Besides being a clear denunciation of the reprehensible policies of George W. Bush (while he was sitting right there - BURN!), it's a good allusion that I hadn't explicitly considered before. We often talk about threats to the United States as if they're completely new... and thus we have to change everything because terrorists want to kill us... but that's obviously a terribly myopic view, and it goes well beyond how many more orders of magnitude of an existential threat the USSR and Nazi Germany were compared to Al-Qaeda. It's easy to forget that basically from the Declaration of Independence through the War of 1812, our fledgling nation was under constant threat of annihilation by almost unimaginably superior forces... and yet they based their government on an ironclad Rule of Law that accepted no compromises for expediency... to the point that John Quincy Adams even got sworn in on a Constitutional Law book to show where is true fealty lay. Kinda makes it clear how they weren't just breaking laws, they were betraying they very essence of this nation... to live out their Jack Bauer fantasies. In related news, no blanket pardons issued yesterday. Hmmm...