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In his [inaugural] speech Mr Obama painted conservatives as akin to a primitive tribe—intensely united around such totems as climate-change denial or hostility to gay rights, rigid in their belief that government safety nets trap citizens in dependency, and generally prone to mistake “absolutism for principle”. In contrast, Mr Obama used the inauguration to thank and reassure the loose coalition that returned him to power in November.[…]

In part, Mr Obama was warning Republicans that he will use public opinion against them. But his wider strategy is much more ambitious. He seems willing to wager that the breadth of his voter alliance trumps the intensity of a conservative movement that—though united as rarely before—draws its strength from voter blocks in relative or absolute decline, whether white voters, rural Americans or social conservatives. Put simply, the president seems ready to bet that his coalition beats the Republicans’ tribe.

– The Economist columnist and blogger known as Lexington, in his print column for the January 26th issue (emphasis mine).

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The characterizations of Obama’s address yesterday seem for the most part to be in agreement, though the participating parties use different words to describe it. Democrats are calling it bold, assertive, and provocative, while Republicans say it was confrontational, adversarial, and harshly ideological. Both are calling it partisan. And Politico said something about dodging entitlements, which means they must have ended up at the wrong speech – so everything is as it should be. Democrats are unnecessarily thrilled and Republicans are unrealistically pissed, so Obama must have done something right. One important Congressman even thought partisanship had been suspended for the day, so he might have also been at the wrong speech, or may have left his GOP decoder ring in his other pants.

Here I am simply posting a couple of excerpts – from the Washington Post‘s full text – that I found most moving, important, and memorable, in the context of great oratory. I do not claim a referendum, a renewed confidence in Obama, or anything close to a hint of optimism that he will come through on everything he said. I do have faith in the perseverance of the better angels of our nature, and I do believe in Obama’s vision for the future. Whether it comes to fruition, in whole or in part, is another matter. But I hope it does, and its gravitas and profound language gives my skepticism a much-needed pause.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm. 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 the risks that make this country great.

–   –   –

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together. Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune … we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.

Know that I will be doing everything in my power as Senate Republican leader, fighting tooth and nail, to protect your Second Amendment rights, so that law-abiding citizens such as yourself can properly and adequately protect yourself, your family, and your country.

-Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in a taped call to Kentucky gun owners, regarding President Obama’s gun-control proposals.

Remember, however, that this is the same Kentucky senator who also created a bit of a stir when he said this in October of 2010:

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

Earlier today, Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term as president in a small ceremony at the White House. Tomorrow, to add insult to injury, he will actually be sworn in a second time, as part of a liberal conspiracy to really just rub McConnell’s face in it. Scores of conservative Congressmen are reported as having thrown up their hands in exasperation upon hearing McConnell’s taped quote above, as now Obama’s gun proposals are almost guaranteed to pass.

In a surprisingly excruciating ass-kicking, Al Sharpton beat the living crap out of gun proponent Larry Ward today on Politics Nation. You know Larry, the guy who decided that guns were undeservedly under-appreciated in this country, and so has been traveling Punditstan touting his Gun Appreciation Day idea, which he claims does not make him a fringe extremist – he is merely a lowly constitutionalist, a righteous everyman populist crusading for the rights of you and me. It is a matter of principal; the gun companies’ money has nothing to do with it, nor is it a reaction to the Newtown shooting – it is, rather, a “reaction to the reaction” to the Newtown shooting.

In response to those on the left who think that Gun Appreciation Day is a really, really bad, offensive, crazy idea, he says he merely aims to “let people know that there is another side of the argument.” (That side seems like it’s already a bit crowded to me, what with the NRA and the Gun Owners of America club, but hey, I’m sure they can make room for one more guy with a nutty idea.) Ward, who usually spends his time being a “conservative media operative” and so is a little tone deaf when it comes to public messaging, has killed two birds with one bullet (which he’ll tell you is definitely the best way to do it) in a poor-judgement double-whammy: he went on record saying “if blacks had guns, slavery wouldn’t have happened” to CNN, and also scheduled his Gun Appreciation Day for January 19th – I suppose to leech as much importance out of the inauguration as possible – which is Martin Luther King Day weekend. To make it look like the latter wasn’t an accident and that he does know how to read a calendar, he has made an even more ill-advised attempt to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. into his argument for Gun Appreciation Day. This is where Sharpton comes in.

I don’t particularly like Al Sharpton, or his show, but some of the stories he covers are bizarrely compelling, and I like to keep the news on as background noise. So when I heard Ward trying to convince Sharpton that Martin Luther King Jr. would have been pro-gun, and would have supported his special day, I perked up.

Sharpton:Ward

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