In his final inaugural address, the president sounded like a man who knows his clock is running out. To press the issues for which he wants to be remembered, the four-year calendar is misleading. He appears to know that he has only a few months at best before his congressional opposition turns their attention to their own 2014 re-election prospects — and make it much harder for him to get anything done.
He seemed to be signaling that he has learned from experience. Today's political landscape is polarized. There really are red states and blue states in the USA.
This speech unveiled Obama 2.0, the sequel to the Washington newcomer who was caught off guard by a backlash from the Republicans' tea party right wing not seen in Washington since the days of “white backlash,” as the media dubbed the grass-roots conservative reaction to the Rev. Martin Luther King's civil rights revolution in the 1960s.
Much has changed since those days. But Obama, who has avoided talking much about race for fear of being accused of racial favoritism, did more than pay the usual obligatory tributes to King's birthday holiday and the upcoming 50th anniversary of King's “I Have a Dream” speech.
Obama 2.0 updated the agenda to include today's big items, particularly marriage equality, climate change, women's rights and comprehensive immigration reform.
And he presented them in the fashion of Theodore Roosevelt's populist “square deal,” not only as a way for hardworking individuals to get ahead in life regardless of their conditions of birth but as investments in the nation's future.
His opposition disagrees. That's OK. That's their job. But these are the issues on which Obama, repeatedly invoking “We the people,” is betting his legacy. Let the people decide.
TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES