In the past four years, some powerful conservatives and Republicans (not always one in the same, of course) were criticized by the national news media for making statements about stopping Barack Obama’s liberal agenda. Rush Limbaugh famously stated that he did not want to see the President succeed, because if the President succeeded in passing his agenda, the country would fail. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed that the GOP’s top political priority would be to deny the President a second term in office.
The pundits howled because everyone should want to support the success of our President, especially in tough economic times they claim he inherited, regardless of partisan affiliation – just like Democrats did for George W. Bush, of course.
Yesterday, the President all but stated the same thing about his Republican opposition in Congress. The inaugural address is traditionally a platform for soaring rhetoric to unite Americans behind common themes supported in our founding principles as a nation. The President instead used his 19 minute address to lay out a laundry list agenda that is effectively sticking his chin out to his opponents in Congress and tempting them to take a swing at the champ. He talked about immigration, climate change, and more – all of those special interest policies that do nothing to preserve individual freedoms from the soft tyranny of government, and in fact embolden and grow government.
Obama has also made it clear in recent weeks that he won't really negotiate anything since he won the election. He will use sledge hammer politics to force his agenda with reckless abandon.
As noted in the Detroit Free Press (see: Barack Obama's 2nd inaugural address tempered by partisan politics of 1st term), Obama set a partisan tone in his inaugural address that suggests he wants the GOP to fail, just like it wanted him to fail four years ago, and today:
They (entitlements) do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. The contemptuous dismissal of "a nation of takers" was a slap at his Republican presidential opponent, Mitt Romney, and at Romney's running mate, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
As he did four years ago, Obama decried the capital's grinding partisanship. "We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate," he said.
So what does this say about the next four years? It says that the system works. Yes, partisanship has been made to sound like a dirty word by the news media that want everyone to just get along, but with the specter of mid-term elections looming in just 21 months from now, both sides will calculate how they can advance an agenda (their own) and block an agenda (the other side’s) this year before voters are paying attention next year.
What it also says is that most politicians in Washington care about jamming an agenda down the throat of the opposition (Obama) or appeasing the opposition so not too appear too partisan and turn off independent voters too much (the GOP).
What we really need and are in short supply of is principled leadership that focuses on what government should and should not do, especially to move us out of the economic morass into which leaders in Washington got us over four years ago.