Thursday, January 24, 2013

What Was President Obama’s Speech About?

1/24/2013—President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address was pretty short on specifics. But such speeches usually are. Two references brought to mind the excitement he raised in 2008 when he acknowledged nonbelievers as part of the national fabric—the first time any President had done so on such a public occasion.

This time the acknowledgments were of gay rights and global warming—Obama called it climate change (I have never understood or supported that alternative term). But while nonbelievers really did not need much more than acknowledgment, that is not true to the same extent of gays and climate issues.

It is true to some extent. Both issues have been taboos, which of course they now no longer are. But both issues require action. In the case of gays, repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. In the case of global warming, lots of actions. So we have to wait to see Obama’s substance.

Probably the most significant part of the President’s speech was his implied promise to defend “Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security.” Obama said we need to deal with the deficit, but how can that be done if changes to these big three entitlements are off the table? David Brooks criticized this aspect of Obama’s speech as “effectively to sacrifice the future to the past.” To some extent it seems that way to me also.

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