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Obama’s Unusually Direct Inaugural Address
For an inaugural address, President Obama’s speech today was striking because it was unapologetically liberal and unusually direct.
When the President sought to counter attacks on Social Security, he embraced the program explicitly, crediting “Social Security” among the “commitments we make to each other.” That’s a sharp contrast from Obama’s first inaugural. Then he spoke only of providing “a retirement that is dignified” for the elderly — language designed to elide, rather than confront, the political fault lines over government assistance.
Obama was equally direct when he took aim at one of his 2012 rivals. The President singled out Paul Ryan’s famous complaint that a social safety net “saps” private initiative and turns workers into “takers.” Medicare does not “sap our initiative” or turn us into a “nation of takers,” Obama said, because entitlement programs actually “free us to take the risks that make this country great.” Winning the argument in November was not enough – Obama wanted the last word.
The President’s social agenda also left no doubt about his definition of equality today. In the first explicit call for gay rights in inaugural history, Obama linked marriage equality to the civil rights movement, suggesting a moral connection between the battles in Selma and Stonewall.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” he said, “for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
Those words were politically unthinkable for every other incoming President in history. Just eight years ago today, a re-elected president was sworn in after running on a proposal to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage. But we needn’t go back that far. In 2009, a new President was elected with the same core position, opposing gay marriage as a legal right. Obama’s first inaugural address even invoked “the God-given promise that all are equal” – another elastic formulation that gestured towards inclusion, without actually specifying any execution or political risk. Today’s address, by contrast, put a bold exclamation point on the President’s much-discussed “evolution.” There is great symbolic power in the first black President embracing the gay rights struggle in such direct and moral terms.
If there was an overarching theme in this address, it was that notion of universal rights and collective purpose. Much has been made of the inaugural coinciding with Martin Luther King Day, and like Dr. King, Obama relentlessly tries to present his goals as the fulfillment of traditional ideals – not a new set of values.
At a rhetorical level, Obama hit that note with five different passages that began, “We, The People.” The framework salutes the Constitution’s preamble and implies, not immodestly, that part of the President’s agenda is on par with our constitutional rights and system of government. At a policy level, Obama invoked the Jeffersonian idea that America must often apply new methods to advance old values.
“We have always understood that when times change, so must we,” Obama said, “that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”
That is also the fault line running through the President’s second term – a belief in collective action and universal social insurance, pitted against the conservative premise that we should not provide, and cannot afford, a set of life-long entitlements for every single American.
By Ari Melber for Tumblr.
This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For
The official White House response to a petition to secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016:
By Paul Shawcross
The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:
- The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
- The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
- Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?
However, look carefully (here’s how) and you’ll notice something already floating in the sky—that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that’s helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts—American, Russian, and Canadian—living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We’ve also got two robot science labs—one wielding a laser—roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.
Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo—and soon, crew—to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.
Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.
We don’t have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke’s arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.
We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country’s future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.
If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star’s power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget
No matter how the election turns out, thank you President Obama for everything you’ve done for my hometown of Metro Detroit, the middle class, and the LGBT community. The past four years have mattered.
Ricky Watson of Littleton, Colorado wipes tears from his eyes after he thanked President Barack Obama for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at a campaign rally in Golden, Colorado, September 13. Watson was kicked out of the Air Force 25 years ago for being gay.
Obama’s response to a heart-felt letter from a little girl with two dads.
Versus, of course, Mitt Romney:
Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign recently stated that he believes that the ability of gay and lesbian families to visit one another in the hospital is a privilege, not a right. Additionally, he has spoken out against gay parents adopting children. Finally, the governor has pledged to write discrimination against LGBT peopleinto the U.S. Constitution.
I hope that young Sophia wakes up Wednesday morning to find that there’s someone in the White House who believes that her family should have the same protections as every other family in the country.
Oh my God he answered her. I remember reading her letter and hoping so much someone in his staff would show it to him and I can’t believe he answered her and I’m crying and we need to do this tomorrow guys. If not for yourself do it for her and all the kids like her.
Hey Guyz! The 1980s called and they want their foreign policy back.
«Obama as Miss Cleo»
Here it is, your first glimpse of Barack Obama and Jon Stewart on tonight’s Daily Show. As you know, Obama is on the program to promote his new film, Taken 2.
Tune in tonight at 11/10c!
Via The Atlantic Wire:
The pool report says Stewart teased Obama about his different debate performances with two photos:
One showed Michelle Obama looking at him very angrily onstage afterward, and the other showed her smiling broadly at him afterward. “Do you know which debate was which?” Stewart asked. “Cute. Cute Jon,” Potus said with a smile.