By Ramesh Ponnuru
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.
Obama said that developing “sustainable-energy sources” is “what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.” Does anyone believe that in a week anyone will find that an arresting and compelling thought? Or credit it for being a thought at all?
The president presented the familiar progressive story of the American founding and our subsequent history. The Constitution doesn’t make the protection of a fixed set of rights from ever-changing threats the primary task of government; it sets us forth on a “journey” to destinations unknown but ever more pleasant.
During the last year, for example, the president purports to have reached the conclusion that our founding ideals mean that governments should recognize same-sex marriage. The force of his argument will ultimately, and quickly, overwhelm his current position, that states should be allowed not to recognize those marriages. It will be another step on the journey. Being a progressive means never having to be trustworthy.
We Americans, in the president’s telling, have continually “discovered” the need for ever-larger government while conveniently retaining all of our skepticism of central authority and celebration of private initiative. And a lucky thing it is that we keep enlarging government, since the alternative is apparently the end of all large-scale enterprise: “No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.”
We cannot “treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” Obama said, in a speech made possible by a campaign that described his opponent as seeking to ship jobs overseas, oppress rape victims and spread cancer.
Yes he can ... overcome strawmen.
(Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him in Twitter.)-0- Jan/21/2013 22:26 GMT