A president's critics are often more interesting reads than his supporters. Here's a round-up of responses to Obama's speech from the right. Reaction from the left later today. Conor Friedersdorf:
If only solving America’s troubles were as simple as putting petty grievances aside. I share the desire to do that, or course, and there is a great deal of trumped up disagreement in Washington DC.
What Barack Obama failed to address in his remarks, however, is that some political disagreements are real grounded in principle, or differences in judgment, or varying emphasis on different priorities, or the inescapable fact that human beings have different preferences. This is why it can never be the case, unless there is a war so terrible that our very existence is immediately threatened, that the country is going to join together in unanimity to address what ails us.
I thought it was pedestrian, and at times petty in its many shots at Bush. There were of course some good passagesI especially liked the bit about not apologizing for our way of lifebut some real clunkers too. "We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories." Good luck with that, Mr. President.
There were, as one would expect, a few lines at which a conservative would cavil; but on the whole I was impressed by the new President’s tone, by his précis of the American tradition, by the tribute he paid to our forebears and to those “guardians of our liberty” who are making sacrifices today, and by my sense that he himself is acutely conscious of the preciousness of the legacy with which he has been entrusted.
I thought Obama did the minimum about Bush the barest minimum: “I thank him for his service,” or something. He could have done a lot more: not with more words, but with better, truer, more gracious words. Bush has certainly done a lot. For one thing, he is passing on to his successor the means with which to fight the War on Terror.
Having just listened to the speech, I think there was a lot to like there for those whose greatest concern is that Obama is soft -- that he doesn't appreciate the role violence has played in forging our democracy. Dianne Feinstein opened the ceremony by talking about how the ballot is more powerful than the bullet, how non-violence has made this day possible. It's a bizarre revision of American history that focuses on Martin Luther King rather than William Tecumseh Sherman or George Washington.
An unduly perfunctory thank you to President George W. Bush was the only glaringly false note. He leaped right to the heart of the matter outlying the daunting challenges ahead. A splash of cold water, perhaps surprising in its bluntness. His terse statement that the challenges would be met was again more stark than what one might have expected. But he pivoted toward poetry with a call to unity and higher purpose and the summoning of historical precedents. And then a blunt call to “pick ourselves up and dust itself off.” He drifted for a bit into gritty talk of electric grids and roads. And then a call back to more expansive themes, declaring, “We are ready to lead again.”
I think this is a muddle half a state of the union, half an inaugural address.
(Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty.)
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