EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 21, 2009

Our view: Now let's see the plan

A campaign defined by "hope" has become a presidency that will be built on "work."

In his inaugural address, Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, told the American people they have work to do.

President Obama noted that many of his predecessors had taken their oaths of office in times of prosperity and national strength. But today, the nation faces many challenges.

The country remains locked in a war on terrorism. The economy is struggling not only because of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also because of "our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."

As a result, people have lost their homes and jobs, businesses have closed. Health care is too expensive and schools are failing. As a nation, we are losing our confidence, the president said.

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many," Obama said. "They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met."

And the way Americans will meet these challenges is through work.

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America," the president said.

Obama's inaugural address was a good speech, not quite a strong one. The president is an eloquent and effective speaker. His words inspire. That is the purpose of an inaugural address.

But as with many of Obama's earlier speeches, the address lacked details. We're certain that Obama is right when he says there is much work to be done. But we're unclear on just how he plans to "remake" America.

A good many of our fellow citizens think America is just fine as it is. Sure it's been battered and banged up a bit. But there's life in the old thing yet.

There's a fear that our nation's leaders, beginning in the Bush administration and continuing in Obama's, will overreact to this crisis. What started as a necessary bailout of credit markets is expanding — seemingly every day — to a cash-grab of unprecedented proportion. Government printing presses are pumping out more dollars every day. This federal largesse will come with consequences that have yet to be considered.

With every bailout dollar spent, our national debt grows. That growing debt means we depend ever more on the wealth of other nations for our own prosperity. No nation can long prosper when it owes its soul to others.

It's reassuring that President Obama calls on the nation to "set aside the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics." We hope that the president's own party leaders in Congress, who even now are preparing to convene committee hearings to investigate and lay blame on the Bush administration, will heed this call.

The president also recognized that the war against terrorism is still vital to our national security.

"We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense," Obama said. "And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, 'Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.'"

But he also promised a new spirit of cooperation with our allies and those willing to deal with America fairly and openly.

"Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions," the president said. "They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."

Obama campaigned for the White House on a platform of hope and change. Now, the nation will learn just what kind of change the president's administration will bring, and whether the hope it has invested in Obama was well placed.

For the sake of the nation, we wish him the best.