Thursday, January 22, 2009

America’s Best Poet

We get a new President only every four years or so. Even when the President isn’t the Messiah Obama, a presidential inauguration is the closest thing we have in America to a royal coronation.

Usually at such a solemn event, it is incumbent upon us to enlist the very best. Of course, we would have the best military band to provide the pomp. And the best soldiers to provide the best honor guard.

We would also have the very best Queen of Soul to sing “My Country ’Tis of Thee”. The best evangelical preacher to give the invocation. The best classical musicians to perform a specially-commission piece, written by the best classical composer of our day.

And, in this case, the best ... poet. Perhaps she can call upon the poetry gods ... to inspire her to give a recitation ... of the best ... poetry ... that this great nation ... has to offer.

In case you missed it, Dr. Elizabeth Alexander was the best, uh, poet, that Barack Obama could find.

In deference to copyright laws, I won’t publish her work here. You can read it here.

I think I can call upon the “fair use” clause to give you this sample, the first few lines of “Praise Song for the Day”:

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

It goes downhill rapidly from there.

I don’t doubt Dr. Alexander’s credentials. After all, she has three college degrees (just like me). A work of hers was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize (okay, she has one up on me in that category).

She is a former journalist for the Washington Post and currently is a professor of English literature, African-American literature, and gender studies at Yale University. Impressive credentials.

Her brother, Mark, was an adviser to the Obama presidential campaign and a member of his transition team.

Well, that explains a lot.

In an interview with the New York Times, she downplayed the role that her inner-circle connections with the Obamanistas played in her selection for this honor. “[E]very choice he’s made is ... based on what he perceives as excellence,” she says.

Here’s another example of what Dr. Alexander believes that Obama “perceives as excellence” as she tries to paint a verbal picture of a slice of life in America:

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.


Writing the things that need to be written. Saying the things that need to be said. Driving to the places that need to be driven to. Doing the things that need to be done.

Not a plethora of substance here.

In 1961, John Kennedy called upon Robert Frost to speak at his inauguration. Frost responded by writing “Dedication”. But in the glare of the white snow on a sunny day, the 86-year-old poet could not read his own commissioned work. Instead, he recited “The Gift Outright” from memory.

Frost later presented his handwritten version of “Dedication” to the President, who had it framed and hung on the Oval Office wall. That copy is now in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston.

The poem Frost wrote for the occasion was a stirring tribute to the history of a great nation, including the following verse:

Now came on a new order of the ages
That in the Latin of our founding sages
(Is it not written on the dollar bill
We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
God nodded his approval of as good.
So much those heroes knew and understood.

Frost’s go-to poem when he couldn’t read his manuscript was no less majestic, a reminder of our colonial roots and our Manifest Destiny:

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, Still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

Forty-eight years later, Barack Obama asked a friend of his to write her best poetry as a gift to the nation. Dr. Alexander came up with this:

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

The President has four years to search for our country’s second best poet. Let’s hope he doesn’t get a chance to reveal his choice to the nation.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Inauguration: So Much Material

The Inauguration of Barack Obama yesterday as our 44th President provided so much material for comment. Where to begin?

Today, let’s stick to the speech itself. Here are some key phrases from the rambling speech that caught my attention, along with my coherent commentary:

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

Actually, since Grover Cleveland had non-consecutive terms, he was both the 22nd and the 24th presidents. So there have only been 43 men who have taken the oath. And you barely stumbled through yours. Yeah, I know, on further review, the replay shows the fault for the flub goes to the Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts. I'll cut you both some slack, but it’s a shaky start.

At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

That’s a direct contradiction of your speech a couple of weeks ago where you proclaimed that our problems are so big that “only government” could fix them. Which is it, Mr. President? Are we successful because of “We the People”? Or are we successful because the government is always here to bail us out? I would like to believe the former. I think — regardless of what you say in your inaugural address — that you believe the latter.

Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

What hard choices have we failed to make? How have we failed to prepare the nation for a new age? It seems that’s a direct attack on the former president sitting just a few feet behind you. But I believe that the economy has been weakened mostly by the intervention of government in the free market, not by its failure to intervene.

Homes have been lost.

No, sir. Homes have not “been lost”. Some people who could not afford to buy a home — but who had been told by the government that they could buy a home anyway — now realize that the government has failed them and has duped them. President Obama believes that people who can afford homes are supposed to buy homes for those who cannot afford them, because the government has already lied to them and told them that they could afford them.

Jobs [have been] shed. Businesses [have been] shuttered.

Employees are assets. Employers are not charities. When the cost of an asset exceeds its value, it must be shed. Interference by Big Government and Big Labor has resulted in the cost of an employee to be two or three times his salary. If the government were suddenly miraculously found to be irrelevant, most of those people would be back at work.

Our health care is too costly.

Our health care is costly, but saying it’s “too” costly is a value judgment that you are not qualified to make. If it’s the best health care in the world — which it is — then it’s not “too” costly. If you think health care is expensive now, just wait to see how much it will cost when it’s “free”.

Our schools fail too many.

The success of our school is a local concern, not a federal one. The failure of our schools is a federal concern, not a local one.

Each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

The solution is to invest in nuclear energy (a proven technology with virtually no environmental impact) and clean coal energy (we have more coal reserves than the Arabs have in oil reserves). We have already built all the hydroelectric dams that are economically feasible. Good luck if you think you can power your Presidential Limousine with solar cells and a windmill.

We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

My safety comes first. Your “ideals” — which will only bankrupt me — are of no concern of mine.

Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine...

Not to take anything away from the perils that the Continental Army encountered, the worse peril they faced was a bullet between their eyes. King George’s army was not capable of flying a plane into the tallest building in Philadelphia.

... drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man...

They drafted a charter to limit size and scope of the federal government. The rule of law and the rights of man are directly correlated to the behavior of the population and the extent to which the government stays away from governing that behavior.

...a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

It wasn’t “expanded” by the blood of generations. It was “defended” by them. Was this a Freudian slip, caused by his belief that it needs even more “expanding”?

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

According to the ideals of President Obama, extracting information from captured terrorists is currently being done because it’s “expedient”, not because it’s actually saving lives.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

Begin again? Remaking America? I don’t think we ever stopped making America great in the first place. What happened? Did we “forget” how to make America and now we need you to remind us how to do it? America was made great because the government allowed its citizens to be great, not because the Commander-in-Chief told us that we’re supposed to.

America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity and ... we are ready to lead once more.

Actually, we never stopped leading. The failure of other countries to follow is not a result of our failure to lead. If we hadn’t led in the war against terror, who would have? The French? The Spaniards?

There you have it. A blow-by-blow, paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal of virtually every salient point of the President’s inaugural address. I’m tired. It’s going to be a long four years. But I’m up to the task.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don’t Get Comfortable, President Obama

This is the day that I knew would eventually come. Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. By winning 53% of the popular vote, it can hardly be said that he had an unconditional mandate of the electorate. Nevertheless, today’s festivities are more of a coronation than an inauguration. One thing can be said of his supporters: they turn out and they make themselves heard. What they lack in numbers, they make up for in spirit, and they are to be commended for that.

He wasn’t my candidate, but now he’s my president. I wish him well, but I don’t wish him success. If success were to be measured by the revitalization of our nation’s economy, that would be a good thing. But if success means the successful implementation of his Pollyannic socialistic ideals, that would be disastrous for our country.

Even before taking office, he has shown a dangerous tendency to deliver the best news to a crowd of people at the best of times, while directly contradicting himself by his very actions. And his followers are blissfully unaware of his true intentions as the rapturously absorb his platitudes.

While campaigning for the office, a common theme was “Change doesn’t come from Washington, change comes to Washington.” Shades of Ronald Reagan! The Great Communicator won the hearts of the nation when he proclaimed that “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” and “We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around.”

The difference is that Reagan meant it and governed by that principle. For Obama, it was a handy sound byte, designed to win adoration and votes. It got him both, and he immediately abandoned it.

In his Linconesque train ride from Philadelphia to Washington, he proclaimed that we need “a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry — an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.” What he has forgotten in that his very election proves that we have already declared ourselves independent of prejudice and bigotry. But if he would celebrate the civil rights victory for what it is, he wouldn’t be able to operate in perpetual campaign-mode. A common flaw with liberals is that they believe that declaring victory over a cause would put them out of business — and that’s a situation they can’t afford to be in.

In his pre-presidential speech outlining our nation’s economic woes, he felt a need to remind us of our misery, and to remind us of our impending dependency on Big Government. He claimed that our problems are so big that “only Washington” can fix them. So much for bringing change to Washington! Washington has always believed it was the only solution to our problems — that’s what has created so many of our problems. It’s just that politicians are usually smart enough not to tip their own hand. Apparently, Obama has believed that the “dumbing of America” has worked to the extent that he doesn’t need to sidestep the issue any more.

Will the change that he promised be realized on his first day in office? Nope. Obama’s inauguration will cost four times as much as the next most expensive inauguration. Hardly representative of an austere government in difficult economic times. And will it be for the common people? Nope. It has primarily been financed by the same corporate giants and liberal millionaires that got him elected in the first place.

But that didn’t stop him from literally raffling off a ticket to the event on his web site. Yep. Thousands of people donated money to his cause, hoping to be the lucky one to win a coveted seat at the proceedings. He graciously accepted the working people’s money, even though it was a pittance compared to the corporate sponsorship and had virtually no effect or influence on the outcome. But it made people believe they were contributing something useful and it gave them “hope” for “change”. That’s about the only hope they’re going to get.

Obama’s claim that there is only one President didn’t keep him from demanding hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus relief from Congress — fully expecting the bill to be on his desk awaiting his signature Wednesday morning.

He doesn’t realize that the only stimulus package we really need has already arrived... it was the housing bubble and the collapse of the stock market and some of our leading financial organizations. That wasn’t a symptom of the problem, that was an indication that the free market was correcting itself. I can’t help it if you don’t like the medicine. It’s the best thing that could have happened.

Instead, he wants to repeat the same mistakes of FDR, actions which lengthened the depression by ten years.

So, enjoy your parties your parades and your balls today, President Obama. Settle into the White House tonight. Enjoy your first day in the Oval Office tomorrow morning. But don’t get comfortable. The honeymoon is already over. The loyal opposition is already in place. And we’re ready for you.