I heard very little of that in the president’s second inaugural. In one perfunctory paragraph, he referred to American skepticism of central authority, to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured by government, and to the country’s insistence on hard work and personal responsibility — before moving on to the unfinished social-justice agenda at vastly greater length.
In describing these ambitions, many of which I support, he conveyed no sense of the dilemmas they will require Washington to confront. It was as though the need, say, to preserve Medicare in exactly its present form is a self-evident moral truth, admitting of no legitimate countervailing argument or principled compromise.
Obama repeatedly jabbed Republicans, reminding them who just won the election (the derisive reference to “takers” leapt out at me). That’s fine, I suppose, but almost half the country voted for the other party’s candidate, and they’re U.S. citizens, too. A little generosity to the losers wouldn’t have cost Obama anything, but he offered none.
There wasn’t much respect, either. How could there be? If you cast all your policy ideas as moral imperatives, what does that say about people who disagree with you? Obama made it plain he thinks Republicans are not just wrong but morally impaired.