Michael Barone: Inaugural had plenty of audacity, but little hope

BY MICHAEL BARONE Published: January 26, 2013
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Commentators both left and right agree that Barack Obama's second inaugural speech Monday was highly partisan, with shoutouts to his constituencies on the left and defiance of his critics on the right.

Obama quoted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and made brief reference to Abraham Lincoln's sublime Second Inaugural (“blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword”). But there was not much in the way of “with malice toward none, with charity for all.”

There were more references than in many inaugural speeches to specific programs and policies. One interesting question is what the practical effect they will have in the next few years.

“We reject the belief,” Obama said, “that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.” Later in the paragraph, he specifically mentioned Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Practical effect: No entitlement reforms in the next four years. House Republicans can pass budgets with long-term Medicare fixes, but they aren't going anywhere.

That's quite a difference from 16 years ago, when Bill Clinton pursued serious entitlement reform with Newt Gingrich.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change,” said Obama, citing anecdotal evidence of unusual weather. Put this in the category of soothing a constituency that's not going to get what it wants.

Democrats were unable to get a cap-and-trade bill through the Senate when they had a 60-vote supermajority. They won't get one through either house in the next two years.

“We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries.” Another shoutout to green Democrats.

Obama regulators may stymie the booming hydraulic fracking industry, but Congress isn't going to fund half-trillion dollar “green jobs” boondoggles like Solyndra.

“The love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.” This was preceded by a graceful reference to Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall, in which Americans protested government deprivations of different rights.

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