Do you remember what Ramesh Ponnuru wrote about President Obama’s first Inaugural Address? I didn’t think so. (More)
Contrary to common myth, squirrels don’t remember everything we do. For example, we bury nuts for safekeeping and have a general sense of where we put them. Then we go to that general area and sniff around, rather like you humans do in your refrigerators. Except we can usually identify our stored food. But we have excellent memories for important things, like how to get into
bird squirrel feeders.
Maybe that’s why I don’t remember what Ramesh Ponnuru wrote about President Obama’s first Inaugural Address. It wasn’t important enough to bother. But I can sniff around Google for political nuttitude as well as I can sniff around trees for edible nuts, and here’s what Ponnuru wrote four years ago:
It will be praised to the skies but I thought it was pedestrian, and at times petty in its many shots at Bush. There were of course some good passages – I especially liked the bit about not apologizing for our way of life – but some real clunkers too. “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” Good luck with that, Mr. President.
In fact, most reactions to President Obama’s first Inaugural Address were muted. The economy was in free-fall, the nation was mired in two wars, and the new president did not gloss over those challenges. As for harnessing the sun and the winds and the soil, the president followed through on that promise.
So I don’t put much stock in Ponnuru’s prediction about President Obama’s second Inaugural Address:
The world will little note nor long remember anything President Barack Obama said in his second inaugural address; still less will it remember any of the gushing encomiums his admirers in the press reliably produce, comparing him variously to Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and Jesus.
I sniffed around Google a bit more, but I couldn’t find any nuts comparing President Obama to Jesus. The comparisons to Dr. King and President Lincoln did happen, and they were appropriate. Because President Obama said something yesterday that the world did note and will long remember:
We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall[.]
The Seneca Falls Convention was a landmark in the movement for gender equality. Among its declarations: that women are equal and should have the right to vote. The Selma to Montgomery Marches were a landmark in the movement for racial equality. The images of police beating peaceful protestors helped change the national dialogue and end the brutal reign of Jim Crow. The Stonewall Protests marked the birth of the LGBT equality movement.
By linking Stonewall to Seneca Falls and Selma, President Obama sketched an arc of American history, focused on the ever-expanding scope of “We the People.” For the first time ever, a U.S. President used his Inaugural Address to call for full LGBT equality. He made history, and it mattered to a whole lot of Americans.
But they were Othered Americans, and that summarizes the Republican criticisms of President Obama’s address. They said the president didn’t talk enough about the people who really matter to Republicans … namely, themselves:
“I would have liked to have seen some outreach,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).[…]
Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of leadership, said the speech was “mostly 30,000-foot stuff” that did not extend any olive branches to the GOP. […]
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she believed Obama intended to reach out to Republicans in his second term, but that the speech strayed too far toward partisan rhetoric.
President Obama spoke eloquently of renewing the “grand experiment” that is our nation, of our duties to each other:
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began, for 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. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.
That is our generation’s task, to make these works, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.
President Obama spoke about “We the People,” but he didn’t speak about Republicans … and their criticism reveals the small-mindedness of today’s Republican Party in full flower.
Fortunately, the world will little note nor long remember their narcissism. Ponnuru and the president’s Republican critics will fade into footnotes.
President Obama will not.
Good day and good nuts.