For all those conservatives like Andrew Sullivan, Bruce Bartlett, Colin Powell and others who still think the president of the United States is a moderate, I hope you were paying attention to the radical left, spit in your eye, partisan inaugural address given by Barack Obama yesterday.
Inaugurals usually include calls for national unity and appeals to our founding principles, which is part of their charm. With the election long over, swearing in a President is a moment for celebrating larger national purposes. But Mr. Obama's speech was notable for invoking the founding principles less to unify than to justify what he called "collective action." The President borrowed the Constitution's opening words of "we the people" numerous times, but his main theme was that the people are fundamentally defined through government action, and his government is here to help you.
On that theme, the speech was especially striking for including a specific defense of the federal entitlement programs that everyone knows must be reformed. Mr. Obama cited "Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security" by name as "the commitments we make to each other." Typically, such programmatic specificity is reserved for State of the Union speeches. Mr. Obama almost seemed to be elevating them to Constitutional rights.
Typically, too, inaugural addresses avoid overt partisanship. But after mentioning those entitlements by name, Mr. Obama couldn't resist saying that those programs "do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great."
The "takers" line was a clear shot at Mitt Romney's most famous campaign gaffe. This should have been beneath a Presidential inaugural, but then again it fits Mr. Obama's post- re-election pattern of continuing to demean and stigmatize those who disagree with him as if the election campaign is still on.
Liberals were absolutely giddy. The Atlantic's James Fallows called it "the most sustainedly "progressive" statement Barack Obama has made in his decade on the national stage." And Noam Scheiber of the New Republic, writes what everyone has known about Obama for years but tried desperately to hide: he's a liberal.
It would be hard to read, say, his June 2008 victory speech without a sneaking suspicion the guy is a liberal. The key difference is that Obama actively defended his worldview this time, which is not something we've see him do on these stages.
The president wouldn't dare run a campaign that revealed his true ideology. That's because it is actually beyond "liberalism" as we understand it and is more closely identified as radical communitarianism. "You didn't build that" is a far more revealing statement than anything the president mouthed yesterday about our "founding principles" and the Constitution. When he says that we're all in this together, what he really means is a benovolent government will set the agenda and the rest of you rubes will fall in and obey. No more of this nonsense about individual liberty or individual achievement. Those constructs will be recognized only as far as they advance the cause of "community" - as defined by me.
It really is a radical vision. And Allah points out, the economy, the debt, and overseas crisis will not get in the way of him attempting to fulfill it:
Finally, to all the centrist wise men and reasonable-sounding conservatives - how do you like me now? You said I couldn't get re-elected unless I was more bipartisan, more moderate, more Clintonian. You blamed me for Washington's gridlock and assumed the country would as well. You said I should campaign on Simpson-Bowles, of all things, instead of social issues.
Well, guess what? I did it my way, and it worked. I got tax increases without entitlement cuts, I flipped the script on the culture war, and now Marco Rubio is going to help me pass an immigration bill. I'm still up for a grand bargain, but I don't need one: The economy's limping back, the deficit should stabilize in the short run, and the long term - well, that's my successor's problem. I'd like to win on gun control and climate change, but I'll settle for making the case and seeing whether a Biden administration (you only think I'm kidding) can finish the job...
And oh, you centrist chin-strokers who kept saying I was no Clinton? You were absolutely right.
Those conservatives who constantly warned that we should watch what Obama does and not what he says can now relax. The president's rhetoric has now caught up with his ideology We are in for 4 years of struggle that will define America for decades - perhaps forever.
If that doesn't get your juices flowing, I don't know what will.