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The ghosts at Obama’’s side are crowding the stage

The ghosts at Obama’s side are crowding the stage

So many ghosts crowd the inauguration dais that it’s not surprising Chief Justice Roberts flubbed his lines and had to be corrected by the man he was swearing in. Look over there, on the right — that jowly fellow with the 5 o’clock shadow and the long, upsweeping nose. It’s Richard Nixon on Jan. 20, 1973. He’d swept every state in the union in November’s election, except for Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Listen to him: “As we meet here today, we stand on the threshold of a new era of peace in the world.” Yet American B-52s were still bombing Cambodia, as they had virtually throughout his administration. Oneand-a-half years later he resigned, rather than face impeachment. Why look! Nixon’s smiling. He’s just heard Obama call for “a new era of responsibility.” He’s remembering more lines from his second inaugural in ´73: “A person can be expected to act responsibly only if he has responsibility. This is human nature. So let us encourage individuals at home and nations abroad to do more for themselves, to decide more for themselves.” Perhaps Ghost Nixon is smiling because, he can see, four or eight years down the road, how swiftly things might turn for Obama, long on preachments, short on real change, forever trimming before the wind. Inaugural rhetoric is a currency forever debauched by JF Kennedy’s appalling excesses in this department. The genre is tired. Pledges of a new day get their ritual airing. America is a beacon of freedom and virtue, a foe whose reach is long and whose wrath implacable. Obama trod this familiar path, offering a mild version of blood-sweat-andtears. “We understand that greatness is never a given,” he said. “It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.”

Obama’s notion of what “responsibility” may mean in at least one definition was expressed five days before the inaugural (which may end up costing a thoroughly irresponsible $150 million, much of it furnished by taxpayers). Obama told editors at the Washington Post that he’s going to convene a “fiscal responsibility summit” in February. This is very bad news. “Fiscal responsibility” in this context means only one thing — an attack on Social Security and Medicare. Sure enough, Obama was quoted by Post reporters as confiding to them that he plans to bring together “a variety of voices on solving the long-term problems with the economy and with a special focus on entitlements.” The Post wrote that Obama remarked that “some of the difficult choices — particularly in regards to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare — should be made on his watch. ‘We’ve kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road,’ he said.” It’s an invariable rule of inaugurals that at some point during the interminable proceedings some TV anchor will

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