Conservatives: Obama's inauguration speech proves he's a liberal

Conservative writers dismiss President Obama's inauguration speech

By Jillian Rayfield
January 22, 2013 9:27PM (UTC)
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President Obama's second inauguration called for a return to broadly progressive ideals as a way of moving the country forward. And many conservatives agreed: The speech proved Obama is a liberal.

Here are some of the reactions:

Stephen F. Hayes at the Weekly Standard:


President Barack Obama used his second inaugural address Monday to offer an aggressive, unapologetic defense of activist government and to call for a new spirit of unity even as he seeks to move the country even further left.
But in celebrating the power of the government to lead the nation forward, Obama breezed past the costs of an ever-growing public sector and made only passing mention of the country’s most urgent problem as he took the oath to lead it: debt.

John Hinderaker at the Powerline blog:

President Obama didn’t find it necessary to talk about joblessness because he wasn’t speaking to all Americans, he was addressing his own core supporters. And they, because they are students, or public employees, or rich liberals, or lobbyists who feed off the public sector, etc., don’t care much about the economy or the employment picture. The fact that President Obama found it unnecessary to address the issue that most Americans rate as the most vital facing the country is just one more indication of how badly Obama has polarized America as he begins his second term.

Paul Kengor at The Weekly Standard's Corner blog:

In the hands of a conservative like Ronald Reagan, this would be just fine, a return to our Founding principles. Yet, in the hands of a radical-left “progressive” like Barack Obama, these are not the soothing words they appear to be on the surface. They are a blueprint for what Obama has more precisely called a “fundamental transformation” of America. These are not benign words. The words must be paired to actions. They are a call to action, to redefine everything from our understanding of religious liberty and the family to the very notion of what is America. Underlying this sweet speech is a sweeping agenda, and Barack Obama knows it, even as his cheering, fawning masses do not.

Ramesh Ponnuru at Bloomberg:

The president presented the familiar progressive story of the American founding and our subsequent history. The Constitution doesn’t make the protection of a fixed set of rights from ever-changing threats the primary task of government; it sets us forth on a “journey” to destinations unknown but ever more pleasant.

During the last year, for example, the president purports to have reached the conclusion that our founding ideals mean that governments should recognize same-sex marriage. The force of his argument will ultimately, and quickly, overwhelm his current position, that states should be allowed not to recognize those marriages. It will be another step on the journey. Being a progressive means never having to be trustworthy.

David Ignatius at the Washington Post:

The only voice that really soared at midday was Beyonce’s, while singing the national anthem. President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address, by contrast, was flat, partisan and surprisingly pedestrian—more a laundry list of preferred political programs than a vision for a divided America and disoriented world.

David Brooks at the New York Times:

I also think Obama misunderstands this moment. The Progressive Era, New Deal and Great Society laws were enacted when America was still a young and growing nation. They were enacted in a nation that was vibrant, raw, underinstitutionalized and needed taming.

We are no longer that nation. We are now a mature nation with an aging population. Far from being underinstitutionalized, we are bogged down with a bloated political system, a tangled tax code, a byzantine legal code and a crushing debt.

The task of reinvigorating a mature nation is fundamentally different than the task of civilizing a young and boisterous one. It does require some collective action: investing in human capital. But, in other areas, it also involves stripping away — streamlining the special interest sinecures that have built up over the years and liberating private daring.

Fred Barnes at the Wall Street Journal:

The speech should debunk two myths about Mr. Obama and his presidency, both trumpeted by liberal commentators and Democratic activists. One is that the president is really a pragmatist and a centrist. Not so. Only an ideologically committed liberal could have delivered the address that Mr. Obama did.

The other myth is that Mr. Obama is eager to compromise with Republicans but has faced unprecedented obstructionism on their part. The speech told a different tale. It showed the president bent on pursuing an agenda with few if any sweeteners for Republicans.

David Frum at the Daily Beast:


The message of today's speech in one headline: "A-bout Left!" The speech contained a sentence of prophylactic praise for initiative and enterprise, hard work and personal responsibility. It struck a note of bogus balance by rejecting the "fiction" that "government alone" could solve "all society's ills." Then it got down to the hard work of delivering a more full-throated defense of government activism than has been heard from any president since Lyndon Johnson half a century ago.

This was an inaugural written in "damn the torpedoes" mode. It rejected and repudiated the ideas that have dominated American political discourse since the Carter presidency. It rejected not only Reagan, but Clinton; it called not merely for government investment in infrastructure and education, but boldly defended the social insurance state more forcefully than it has been defended by any president in my lifetime.

And, of course, Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post:

If there had been any doubt, the president’s second inaugural address did confirm he is a dogged collectivist with little appreciation for the dangers we face in the world.

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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2013 Presidential Inauguration Barack Obama Jennifer Rubin Progressives William Kristol