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Inaugural invocation

vastleft's picture

President Obama, please be a liar.

Please let everything we heard from you about bipartisanship prove to be an act of utter mendacity.

Please be ideological and logical, and not equivocating and faith-based.

Go forth to the nearest phonebooth (if there aren't any left, get one shovel-ready ASAP), and emerge as SuperProgressive, or at least as someone who isn't disgusted by liberals and their unserious agendas, like single-payer healthcare, Constitutional government, and repudiating the Reagan Revolution once and for all.

You wanted us to hope for change. And we do, we do!

No votes yet


Submitted by jawbone on

a vibrant defense of liberalism. I'm quoting it all. Obama kind of riffs on the first question in the first paragraph, then forgets to define what liberal means. Alas.

September 14, 1960

What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

But first, I would like to say what I understand the word "Liberal" to mean and explain in the process why I consider myself to be a "Liberal," and what it means in the presidential election of 1960.

In short, having set forth my view -- I hope for all time -- two nights ago in Houston, on the proper relationship between church and state, I want to take the opportunity to set forth my views on the proper relationship between the state and the citizen. This is my political credo:

I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world todayFor the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies. And the only basic issue in the 1960 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring, of breaking new ground, of doing in our generation what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson did in their time of influence and responsibility.

Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins. Most of us are descended from that segment of the American population which was once called an immigrant minority. Today, along with our children and grandchildren, we do not feel minor. We feel proud of our origins and we are not second to any group in our sense of national purpose. For many years New York represented the new frontier to all those who came from the ends of the earth to find new opportunity and new freedom, generations of men and women who fled from the despotism of the czars, the horrors of the Nazis, the tyranny of hunger, who came here to the new frontier in the State of New York. These men and women, a living cross section of American history, indeed, a cross section of the entire world's history of pain and hope, made of this city not only a new world of opportunity, but a new world of the spirit as well.

Tonight we salute Governor and Senator Herbert Lehman as a symbol of that spirit, and as a reminder that the fight for full constitutional rights for all Americans is a fight that must be carried on in 1961.

Many of these same immigrant families produced the pioneers and builders of the American labor movement. They are the men who sweated in our shops, who struggled to create a union, and who were driven by longing for education for their children and for the children's development. They went to night schools; they built their own future, their union's future, and their country's future, brick by brick, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, and now in their children's time, suburb by suburb.

Tonight we salute George Meany as a symbol of that struggle and as a reminder that the fight to eliminate poverty and human exploitation is a fight that goes on in our day. But in 1960 the cause of liberalism cannot content itself with carrying on the fight for human justice and economic liberalism here at home. For here and around the world the fear of war hangs over us every morning and every night. It lies, expressed or silent, in the minds of every American. We cannot banish it by repeating that we are economically first or that we are militarily first, for saying so doesn't make it so. More will be needed than goodwill missions or talking back to Soviet politicians or increasing the tempo of the arms race. More will be needed than good intentions, for we know where that paving leads.

In Winston Churchill's words, "We cannot escape our dangers by recoiling from them. We dare not pretend such dangers do not exist."

And tonight we salute Adlai Stevenson as an eloquent spokesman for the effort to achieve an intelligent foreign policy. Our opponents would like the people to believe that in a time of danger it would be hazardous to change the administration that has brought us to this time of danger. I think it would be hazardous not to change. I think it would be hazardous to continue four more years of stagnation and indifference here at home and abroad, of starving the underpinnings of our national power, including not only our defense but our image abroad as a friend.

This is an important election -- in many ways as important as any this century -- and I think that the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party here in New York, and those who believe in progress all over the United States, should be associated with us in this great effort. The reason that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson had influence abroad, and the United States in their time had it, was because they moved this country here at home, because they stood for something here in the United States, for expanding the benefits of our society to our own people, and the people around the world looked to us as a symbol of hope.

I think it is our task to re-create the same atmosphere in our own time. Our national elections have often proved to be the turning point in the course of our country. I am proposing that 1960 be another turning point in the history of the great Republic.

Some pundits are saying it's 1928 all over again. I say it's 1932 all over again. I say this is the great opportunity that we will have in our time to move our people and this country and the people of the free world beyond the new frontiers of the 1960s.

Emphasis is all mine--entire speech, almost, could have been bolded. Reading this gives me hope. The bolded part of the first paragraph should be emblazoned on every lib blog, somewhere. These words should come to our lips like the opening of the Gettysburg Address!

We should send this to Obama ASAP. Email blizzard. With bolding!

Aux armes, citoyens! To the keyboards, citizens!

(Take it away, BIO! Show us the liberal within BO!)

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Bored, are we? Looking to pick a fight? Sorry, I'm just floating on a cloud here, savoring the departure speeches of the BushCo bunch (Condi's was particularly tasty) and nothing will get a rise out of me.

Plus, you're coming after the wrong person. I've never said Obama is a Liberal, or a Progressive; he isn't, and ragging on him to be one isn't likely to be productive - IMHO. Perhaps you missed this; show me, there or anywhere, that I've argued Obama is anything but a Centrist Conservative.

Progressives should hitch up their pants and lift up their skirts and get busy making the case for Progressive causes instead of being like the lemmings on the Right and wishing for some charismatic Faery Godmother/father Leader to take charge and dictate Progressive change. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton nor any other president we're likely to get will do that. We're going to have to push for the change we want to see, and push hard, or it will never come.

I do argue that Obama and the Democrats, unlike the Republicans, can be pushed and that they will respond to pressure. Plenty of supportive evidence for that assertion with the results we've all seen from the organized, focused pressure that the Right delivers. The Left will have to learn how to do the same; if we don't, then shame on us.

All - repeat, ALL - of the Progressive change we've seen in this country since the inception has come as a result of the common people getting fed up and causing such disruption that the Ruling Elite had to give in. That effort included strikes and marches and boycotts and sweat and blood and tears, including mine. To be clear, sometimes it included violence and I won't endorse that, not at all. It would be nice if we could avoid the blood and tears part this time around, but I fear we will not have that luxury.

I am not your enemy, and neither is Barack Obama or the Democratic Party. What they are is opportunity, if the Left can get itself organized and active and be willing to put forth the effort that will be needed to take advantage of it. Whining and pissing and moaning, especially being defeatist-woe-is-us-all-is-lost, so disgustingly weak-kneed I just can't stand it, won't get 'er done. Instead of complaining that a Centrist Conservative isn't doing Progressive things - big surprise there, not - get busy figuring out ways to make him.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

The obvious advantages and urgent necessity of a progressive agenda are beyond the pay grade of Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et al.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I don't actually mind you appointing yourself some sort of Reader's Digest editor, but I would appreciate you keeping the essence intact instead of giving in to misrepresentation. I'll leave it to the readers to actually read what I write; obviously no value in repeating it, wouldn't want to contribute any further to your state of emotional upset.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

A BIO classic returns!

Did I miss something by not carefully reading another in your series of comments arguing that it's not Obama and company's responsibility to do the right thing until progressive individuals rise up and dominate the MSM's talking points?

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

But perhaps I was hasty in my assessment. Maybe the misrepresentation was made Vulcan-like, with steely-cold deliberateness. My bad.

Responsibility, what a wonderful topic. Laying it off on others, simple and easy and oh so satisfying to whip up a steaming bowl full of righteous anger when they don't do what you've told them to. Endless fun, and savory too!

Taking responsibility on ourselves, now, that's another issue. Who then to blame when the job doesn't get done?

Obama and the Democrats will move in seriously Progressive directions when and only when Progressives force the issues properly framed to the top of public discussion and drive them to it. Perhaps you can cite an instance in our history when it has happened any other way?

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Are the only thing that will save our country from total catastrophe, is a total never mind. We aren't pushing Obama for progressive actions, because of ideological reasons. We want it because it will save us.

The fact that Obama can't see that and act on it is his problem, not ours. Though we face the consequences.

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

Still too many words.

Because when we take out what's wrong [1], the off point response [2], the falsehood [3], and the insult [4], there's nothing left.

[1] "Reader's Digest..." No, "the shorter" is a well-known riff in the blogosphere. I'd define it as "summarizing in a tendentious but not innacurate manner."

[2] "essence intact." The point of the riff is, in fact, to preseve or render the essence. I call this off point since there's nothing responsive in the comment, and since, rather than make the comment a matter for argument, we get the claim of

[3] "Misrepresentation" Since the riff is out front, there's no intent to deceive. Therefore, calling VL's comment mispresentation is false.

[4] "Emotional upset." Not visible to me; and if actually visible to the commenter, not evidenced. The charge of being "emotional" is, of course, closely allied to infantilization, a tactic which most of us, fortunately, are at this point impervious to.

Let me see. That leaves:

I don't actually mind you appointing yourself some sort of Reader's Digest editor, but I would appreciate you keeping the essence intact instead of giving in to misrepresentation. I'll leave it to the readers to actually read what I write; obviously no value in repeating it, wouldn't want to contribute any further to your state of emotional upset.

No, I'm wrong. There isn't "nothing" left. Still, but one half-penny-worth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

and pointlessness....

Thanks awfully for leaping in, but you know VL and I are perfectly capable of duking it out on our own as we have in the past. He's a big tough manly sort of man as well as smart and competent, so if you don't mind please back off and give us some room.

Submitted by lambert on

No reason to get so emotional about it. Haw.

And, hilariously, no substantive response.

UPDATE I guess, Herb, what I object to is the constant variations on the theme that change comes when "common people [get] fed up" (with which I agree, being one), but then when we actually express why we're fed up, and hold a Democrat accountable for (at least part of) that, there's always a problem. If you want to get bringiton charging out of the box, I invite you to call bullshit on Pelosi. Same deal here with Obama.

VL pleads with Obama to "emerge as SuperProgressive" and by the time bringiton's lecture is done, that's been shifted into "Whining and pissing and moaning, especially being defeatist-woe-is-us-all-is-lost." I see very few people doing that here, and certainly not VL in this post. What I do see is posters doing a lot of hard work on issues like health care, finance, climate, even I/P (on good days), as well as the nature of the Constitutional changes we're undergoing.

And call me a purist, but I don't think that we're going to shove the Overton Window left through the construction of straw men -- especially the prolix ones, which suck a good deal of time from those who have actual work to do.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

That is exactly what I was trying to say.

To whit:
a) even my cat(s) has (have) earned the right to complain about Democrats not being progressive.
b) blogs traffic in words, including words that are complaints against Democrats for not being progressive.
c) this is a blog, ergo "b".
d) complaining on a blog that a blog is complaining and should stop complaining is humorous.
e) even if you feel that item "a" is not a right, but a privelige requiring "positive progressive action" before being indulged in, this blog has fulfilled that responsibility (in most every sphere), certainly more than the ankle-biters (unlinked, but including insect copulation speculators) that feel less than 100% Obama orthodoxy is not "progressive".
f) the "reflexive" infighting, is getting tiresome here, since it is becoming decreasingly on topic, and more reaction to previous animosities and gripes, i.e. "get over it" is required.

So, I'm 100% with you.

To sum: grassroots action and complaints of lack of action (including critical description of our "allies") are not mutually exclusive activities, in fact they are complimentary. If one floats your boat more than the other, then do your thing and ignore the other.

BTW, to go on topic, I don't know if Obama is "progressive", but I think we all (even BIO) agree that he needs to be a liar to act that way, and we all hope he IS a liar. Since I believe (with good evidence) that he is basically your garden variety politician, that is a realistic hope.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

The way I read it:

"The obvious advantages and urgent necessity of a progressive agenda are beyond below the pay grade of Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et al."

Either that, or it could be

""The obvious advantages and urgent necessity of a progressive agenda are beyond the pay grade not the job of Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et al., so stop complaining about it.""

That would be the 'back to work you' reading.

I really don't see what the argument is here (on either side), one of tone? If you didn't know better, you wouldn't have known that the post itself wasn't written by BIO, or that the (first) comment hadn't been written by VL.

Seriously, this is a blog, if a blog can't complain and ask that a Democratic president be more progressive, then what the hell is the point of having a blog in the first place? What the hell point is there complaining on that blog that the blog is complaining? Certainly BIO's point that 'you need to work for progressive change, rather than think Obama will hand it to you' is true, but that is what many here are actually doing re health care, re alternative energy, re bailout, etc., etc., etc., and the work would be 1)providing and collecting information for distribution and education (long thought of as 'work' in organizing), 2) providing a forum for the exchange of ideas (again, as above), 3) providing a means of communication, organizing and getting people together both physically and over the internet in a common purpose for a progressive cause (once again as above). This blog has done within the last 2-3 weeks ALL of those things.

Vastleft has earned a right to urge Obama to be more progressive. Shit, my cat has earned that right.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

and I hope you're not a lone voice crying in the wilderness, really.
We NEED a Progressive government. I'm not opposed to that being a Democratic government. I'm not opposed to it being a post-partisan or coalition of parties government, if that's what it takes to get the work done.
What I'm opposed to is it being a government that doesn't get the work done, no matter how much credential-polishing it does.

Submitted by jawbone on

She's definitely not a Sunstein fan: appears that President Elect Obama is going to name Cass Sunstein as his regulatory Czar. I know little about Sunstein, other than this:

Prosecuting government officials risks a "cycle" of criminalizing public service, [Sunstein] argued, and Democrats should avoid replicating retributive efforts like the impeachment of President Clinton -- or even the "slight appearance" of it.

She quotes Matt Stoller, who quotes from a new Sunstein book, Nudge:

As all politicians know but few are willing to admit, we will eventually have to bite the bullet in order to make Social Security solvent, through some combination of tax increases or benefit cuts.

That is exactly 100% out of the conventional wisdom from the 1960s conservative movement, which treats Social Security as a ponzi scheme. It is unsupported by evidence, as the 'insolvency' date for Social Security keeps being moved up every few years, but it is the way that Sunstein supports his theory of 'libertarian paternalism', which is an updated version of the DLC mantra that we must find a solution between a socialist regulatory state and a free market. Here's how Nudge explains this philosophy and its political viability. [Sunstein may be big influence on BO about SocSec, ya think?]

Libertarian paternalism, we think, is a promising foundation for bipartisanship. In many domains, including environmental protection, family law, and school choice, we will be arguing that better government requires less in the way of government coercion and constraint, and more in the way of freedom to choose. If incentives and nudges replace requirements and bans, government will be both smaller and more modest. So, to be clear, we are not for bigger government, just for better governance. [Could someone from BushCo have said it any better?]

The notion of 'nudges', or various things government and business can do to control human behavior without Stalinist regulation, is not new or particularly interesting. For instance, labor unions and business are locked in a multi-million death struggle about card check, which is simply a way of voting for or against labor representation. Labor wants to be able to use petitions or voting, business wants just voting. More examples include voter ID laws that help suppress the vote, ballot designs that privilege one candidate over another, and urban design and sidewalks that encourage or discourage driving. Yet more examples include economic assistance to low income women to reduce abortions, or the fight over abstinence-only education to lower the rates of STDs.

Thaler and Sunstein create new language to describe people who design the defaults in various systems, such as 'choice architect', but once again, this is not even close to a new idea. Bookshops have been charging money for retail placement for years; want your book at eye level, that'll be extra. No, the real point of this book is not to teach anyone about behavioral economics, but to enforce a Beltway orthodoxy that is anti-government to the core

She then quotes a former student of Sunstein's:

One of his former students, Kathy G, calls him the legal equivalent of Alan Colmes [Ooof!] :

... the conservatives' favorite liberal, because he accepts their terms of the debate and has no compunction about kissing their asses with the utmost enthusiasm, the honor of liberalism, or his own self-respect, even, be damned. Either he has no clue how dangerous and destructive these right-wing extremists are, or he doesn't care. And I'm not sure which is worse.

My emphasis and bracketed reactions.

pie's picture
Submitted by pie on

bittersweet article about Dean as his political career comes to a close.

Some of his supporters have been upset that after all he's done for Democrats, President-elect Barack Obama did not pick him for an administration job. When asked how he felt, Dean said he would "punt on that one."

Submitted by lambert on

Though I'm not at all happy about the DNC's role in picking Obama as the nominee (since a majority of actual Democrats didn't vote for him) I think that Dean deserves more respect and a better fate than this.

ElizabethF's picture
Submitted by ElizabethF on

Rham and his arrogant bull dog personality got rid of Dean.

I am pretty miffed right now about the inaugural. It will cost an estimated 150 million to put on this inauguration. Obama had the most costly campaign in history; and he is throwing a party for himself at the price of $150,000,000. Pretty costly party. Even George Bush toned his down in '04 at the request of Democrats.

Not to worry said Linda Douglas of the inaugural committee, "That is probably not the way the country is going to be looking at it. It is not a celebration of an election. It is a celebration of our common values."

As to the lead post, it is difficult to have shared values as a Democrat when the leader of the Democratic Party doesn't know what they are.

Submitted by jawbone on

to oranges comparison. Heretofore, costs were limited to the inaugual festivities and did not include costs of security.

Per Eric Boehlert, were costs of BushBoy's second inaugural configured the same way, his costs would total $157 M.

The MCM is still unable to report accurately, even as they seem to want to show their love for BO. Journamalism is a hard habit to break. The MCMers must be double checked, cannot be trusted. Makes trusting the news very difficult.

Link for Boehlert's column.

Too bad the spokesperson for the inauguration committee didn't have these facts at hand....

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

I've never heard the mainstream media (MSM) referred to as MCM. I even did a Google search and the first five pages cover everything from mathematical modeling to a Minnesota children's project, but nothing on the media or journalism.

Submitted by hipparchia on

if you google "mcm mainstream corporate media" you'll find jawbone near the top of the list of an elite group.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

The fact you have to include "mainstream corporate media" in the search for "MCM" shows it's unusual to use that acronym (Even in that link you used, Jawbone, had to define what it meant). All you need to Google is "MSM" and by the second page, if not the first, you get it.

Use whatever you like but, personally, I think it's easier to stick to the norm so you don't have to bother defining what it means, that's all.

Submitted by jawbone on

used it. It struck me as so much more accurate than MSM. Like, for one, "mainstream" is one word, so where's the MS come from?? And two, it's the corporate part which really controls how the MCM behaves.

So I have been using the term, with explanation of the letters if I'm at a blog I rarely comment at, for years now, hoping sometime the sheer logic of it will be seen by someone with clout. Alas, not so far!

Use MSM. I'll continue to wage my lonely battle for logical acronyms (LBFLA)--in hopes MCM will become the norm. Heh.

Submitted by hipparchia on


i've also seen m$m.

i like having 'corporate' included. i'm happy to do my tiny part to propragate the mcm meme.

ElizabethF's picture
Submitted by ElizabethF on

on these costs. Maryland has had to absorb over 12 million and have asked for congressional help. DC has absorbed 47 million and needs reimbursement too.

Yes...there have been millions raised by private donations however, the true cost will not be known until the Office of Management and Budget release figures after the Inaugural.

How can the cost be the same as Clinton's and Bush's when 2 million people are expected and resources have to be provided for double the attendance? The train ride alone, with everything it entails, is excessive, in my opinion.

Maybe you will accept some numbers from Kenya. They seem to have figured some of it out.

It takes a lot of 'audacity' to spend this kind of many now.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

part. It's just that our common values are that we prefer the bread and circuses of a big blowout party than to actually buckle down and do the work of fixing the country. Platitudes, shallow fauxintellectual analysis, rock stars, starry-eyed hope and lots of merchandise are the common values of this American Idolation.

ElizabethF's picture
Submitted by ElizabethF on

...this kind of money now. Sorry.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Since the progressive blogosphere followed the "MCM" lines during the primary I think trying to make it about the corporate aspect misses the point. There seems to be nothing special about being corporate when it comes to dangerous narratives. Heck, some of the worse stuff originated on the progressive blogs (the "darkening"/"nose broadening, assassination, etc.)