Daily Archives: January 24, 2009

I’m looking at you, Vladimir Putin

My favorite part of Obama’s inaugural speech:

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Oh, I’m sure he could have been thinking of a lot of people, but could it be, by any chance …

… someone like this?

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Filed under Barack Obama, Russia

A secular inaugural speech?

Susan Jacoby, author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, praises Barack Obama for delivering an inaugral address “notably lacking in religious rhetoric”:

Yes, he mentioned God, but as an atheist, I have no objection to a president who believes in God making such a reference. What he did not do was invoke a Higher Power as a source of and a justification for public policy.

Jacoby also expresses satisfaction that Obama specifically mentioned “nonbelievers” along with various religions as a part of America’s diversity.  On that, I completely agree.  But on religious rhetoric and religion as a “justification for public policy,” was Obama’s inaugural address that different from George W. Bush’s in 2001?

Here are the faith-based passages from Bush’s address:

And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity.

I know this is in our reach because we are guided by a power larger than ourselves who creates us equal in His image.

And later, in speaking of “our nation’s grand story of courage and its simple dream of dignity”:

We are not this story’s author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty, and our duty is fulfilled in service to one another.

Obama, meanwhile, spoke of “the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”   He also said this:

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

And:

Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

I would say that Bush’s religious rhetoric was a bit more flowery, but in terms of actual religious content and mentions of God as the source of inspiration of political ideals, the two inaugural addresses are roughly equal.

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Filed under Barack Obama, religion

Post-inaugural thoughts

The speech: The best inaugural address since Ronald Reagan, says Thomas Sowell.  That’s pretty high praise.  “A fine speech,” says Michael Goldfarb on The Weekly Standard blog, particularly impressed by Obama’s emphasis on the role military force has played in maintaining American democracy.   Ron Radosh likes the speech too, while The New Republic‘s John Judis doesn’t (particularly the overly Bushian “Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred”) and neither does Paul Krugman, who thinks Obama’s assertion that we’re all collectively at fault for the economic mess we’re in is a cop-out.  (I couldn’t disagree more; I’m glad it was said in so public a venue.)  This is not to say that Obama is generally making a better impression on conservatives — at least, those of a neoconservative bent — than liberals, but he certainly continues to confound expectations.

Incidentally, Jonathan Last at the Standard blog thinks that Obama’s  reference to “worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics” was a potshot at conservatives, but Ron Radosh thinks it was a reference to dogmas of both right and left (notably, Judis disliked it).  I’m inclined to agree with Ron, since at least so far, if the Obama presidency has an ideology, it’s trascendence of ideology.   Take this passage: Continue reading

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Filed under Barack Obama, left and right, race