On Monday, America’s TV cameras, smartphones, tablets and naked eyeballs witnessed the first inauguration of President Barack Obama — the real Obama.
We saw and heard — for the first time, really — the real pro-America progressive that Obama apparently always wanted to be. We heard a political leader making clear his determination to be a bold, transformational, progressive successor to that transitional fellow who succeeded George W. Bush.
Nobody who heard Monday’s inaugural address could have confused the two Obamas.
Back on Jan. 20, 2009, the most profound contribution that America’s 44th president would make to our nation’s history was conveyed at a glance. We witnessed something most of us thought we’d never live to see: a duly elected African-American president. Yet he was fated from Day One to clean up three disastrous messes he’d inherited: two tragically mismanaged wars and a near-catastrophic recession. No wonder that, even before he sat down at his new desk, Obama was speaking at his 2009 inauguration as if someone somehow had already painted him into a corner of an Oval Office.
The closest he came to a clarion call four years ago had nothing to do with bold initiatives, just let’s-get-along post-partisanship: “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. ... But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”
But after four years of childish things, the president was Washington-wiser (see also: wearier). He had watched the “fiscal cliff” follies played out in the congressional sandbox. So, he used his inaugural address to signal a bold agenda shift.
Obama II has no intention of pursuing, or even paying lip service to, the go-along, get-along priorities of Obama I. Not even on deficit reduction.