As a student of rhetoric, I noticed years ago (before he was even president) that Barack Obama’s major speeches tend to begin

first by referencing the ideals of the Founders, then after having imitated the soaring rhetoric of past American luminaries, changing the focus to make it sound as if the next step for American liberty is to become a socialized nanny state. (Emphasis added.)

Today’s inaugural address (transcript) is no different. Obama devotes several introductory paragraphs quoting the Declaration of Independence, talking about “the patriots of 1776,” and quoting Lincoln, before pretending that they were paving the way for collectivism. Which he sums up, as innocuously as he can, in the phrase “preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”

What follows is a dressed-up litany— pretty words whose practical impact will belie the president’s phony boast of knowledge à la “We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their1 work” — of leftist causes: class warfare,2 government healthcare, social-welfare programs,3 climate change,4 social spending in other countries, gay marriage, women’s pay gap, immigration reform, and gun control.

At the end of this list, the same man who opened with the Declaration of Independence and a supposed understanding of (a) certain, (b) unalienable, and (c) God-given rights then refers to those obliquely though handsomely described political causes as “these works, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.”

The president concludes with repeated commands to act, which he terms “answer[ing] the call of history” and says — which is again remarkably ironic from someone who just minutes prior hailed the key passage of the Declaration of Independence, until you recall that he desired “a new declaration of independence” — that doing so carries “that precious light of freedom.”

To Obama, the concepts of freedom, liberty, rights, independence, and the like are mere words to use to sweeten his prescribed dependence, coercion, statism, restrictions, mandates, taxes, etc. He thinks of them only as the spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. What medicine? Those things he describes euphemistically as “hard choices” and a “long and sometimes difficult” path.

Obama tells us that “We must” — we must! we are compelled! — “make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.” By this he means we must be subject to a series of crippling and ultimately futile tax increases to pay for Obamacare. No amount of taxation — damn that hard ceiling of 100 percent! — can pay down our unthinkable deficit, however, let alone address it and the countless economic shocks inherent in the Obamacare mandates, which we are even now still discovering. Class warfare rhetoric aside, these hard choices will be hardest for the poor to bear. Even now they are waking up to Obama’s deceit over who will pay new taxes under the “fiscal cliff” deal.

Obama later states that “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.” By this he means we must tolerate massive spikes in electricity prices owing to an ongoing war against coal, ongoing cronyistic fervor in bankrolling failure-laden green-energy concerns, antipathy to oil and natural gas despite the revolution in hydraulic fracturing, and coming avalanche of exceedingly expensive environmental regulations. These spikes will fall extremely hard on the poor and represent, as I’ve discussed before, a sea change in Democratic presidential attitudes on the benefits of affordable electricity for the poor and for the nation.

What we heard today was a promise of four more years of false rhetoric and real economic pain driven by ideological fervor and demonstrable diffidence.



  1. The speechwriter could not, apparently, even conceive of “every person” as an individual.
  2. “[O]ur country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it” — which, if you think about it, is a strange charge for a re-elected president to make. If anyone were paying attention, he’s basically declaring his economic policies a failure, but he doesn’t care and neither do his supporters, apparently.
  3. Perhaps nothing summarizes the Obama conception of American exceptionalism and economics better than the following: “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative. They strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take risks that make this country great.” The charges he attempts to refute by ipse dixit are rather telling.
  4. On this topic Obama leads with a deceitful and rather unpresidential recitation of the “climate-denier” smear — “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science” — before making a practical mockery of science: “but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.” He concludes with an even more deceitful and less presidential assertion: “we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.” Yes, that creed. Yes, he really means that we honor the Declaration of Independence by forcing citizens into enslavement to environmentalist nostrums, which include (as noted above) much higher-priced electricity. You will do it either to serve God or science, but you will do it.