There’s probably literally millions of reactions to Barack Obama’s inauguration on the intertubes today, so I wanted to try to highlight some more specific articles and posts which raise some interesting issues which might otherwise get lost in the crowd. [The text is here.]
Two of the more pressing questions since the election in November have been how Obama will respond to the global financial crisis and from what political position he will seek to govern. Both, in a way, have been answered, but hardly definitively. It’s worth observing in passing – and the point is a crucial one for us here in Australia – that the selective invocation of the mantra “there’s only one President at a time” means that we know very little about what the new administration’s stance on global financial regulatory issues and the governance architecture of the world economy will be. Such decisions as are taken – and paths not taken – will probably be of more lasting moment than how effectively and quickly his fiscal stimulus works to turn around America’s domestic economy. But, in that regard, the addition of tax cuts to the infrastructure investment proposed in his domestic package (to corral in some congressional Republican support, or so it’s being framed) reflects a debate about the composition of any stimulus which is important, and to some degree being played out, in our own context as well. Here, I was intrigued to see Andrew Leonard at Salon’s How The World Works blog suggest that a passage in the Inaugural address shows Obama has come down on the Keynesian side of the argument. (And to see Leonard compare Obama’s eloquence with Keynes’, to the former’s detriment.)
Turning to politics, Jonathan Freedland at The Guardian finds solace in Obama’s choice of and approach to themes for the claim that he has indeed set his course on introducing radical measures with conservative appointees. It might equally well be claimed that the repudiation of the Bush era in the speech is part of the post-partisan positioning, so we’ll see. On a related note, Heather McRobbie looks at the influence of the Gaza conflict on Obama’s message to the Middle East and the Islamic world, and isn’t confident words will ring out over the ruins which deeds have recently created. Freedland also examines some of the political pitfalls Obama might face.
On climate change and global warming, Christine Milne sees signs of hope in Obama’s rhetoric of change and collective purpose and his environmental appointments, and writes:
There are certainly a few disappointing nominees in the mix as well, but then there is the factor that, for the first time in living memory, America have a President who, because of the way he campaigned and was elected, is answerable not to the big money and the big corporations, but to the countless millions of individuals who put him where he is. And, furthermore, a President who has built a massive active constituency whom he can mobilise at short notice to campaign on his behalf, spread his message, and bring America with him as he goes.
Again, I hope she’s right, but I think you’d underestimate the power of big business and polluter lobbies – particularly in Congress – at your peril, and I think we also need to wait and see the colour of the Obama administration’s money in global climate negotiations.
Finally, Robert Corr links to an excellent piece from Marc Ambinder on the rhetorical structure of and literary allusions in Obama’s speech.
Update: Some good thoughts from I cite’s Jodi on desperate love for Obama.
Update: As well as writing of his own thoughts on Obama, Andrew Bartlett looks at the fallibility of political predictions, and how few have the good grace to admit when they’ve got it wrong.