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As Obama distinguishes new direction from old, America benefits

Thursday, January 22, 2009 | 11:16 a.m. CST

Our long national nightmare, which you may still think of as the Bush administration, is over. It's time to wake up, time to face grim reality, time to clean up the mess we've made of the world.

That's the message I took away from President Obama's inaugural address. It struck me that, aside from a few inspirational notes, our new leader was giving us a lecture — one he clearly regarded as overdue — on our new responsibilities as adults in charge of our own destiny, and the planet's.

Things are tough and they're going to get tougher, he seemed to be saying. So deal with it. Follow me to higher ground, he instructed, and pick up after yourselves along the way.

As I watched on my new, made-in-China TV, the crowds in Washington and around the country demonstrated that they were in a celebratory mood. Not so the new president. Maybe he was still a little piqued that he and Chief Justice Roberts stumbled over each other's words in the oath of office. Maybe he was wishing that Aretha Franklin had brought more voice and less hat.

Or maybe he felt a need to sober us up after an unseasonably warm and fuzzy couple of weeks in politics. In confirmation hearings and on talk shows, both Republicans and Democrats have been reciting a mantra of bipartisanship, some even suggesting that the times call for post-partisanship, whatever that might be.

Mr. Obama didn't use either of those terms, though he did include the ritual exhortation to national unity. Instead, he firmly closed the Bush chapter and opened one to be based, as he put it, on a new reliance on old values. (In a post-speech analysis, Tom Brokaw joked that if Mr. Bush had seen an advance copy of the speech, the limo ride over from the White House to the Capitol would have been chilly indeed.)

I've always been suspicious of calls for bipartisanship, especially when they come from the side that has just lost an election. Inertia is as powerful a force in politics as in physics, and bipartisanship too often seems to translate into preserving the status quo. That's the last thing we need just now.

I was happy to find my view endorsed by a tarnished hero of the early Bush era, Colin Powell. I read in politico.com that Gen. Powell told MSNBC, "Let's not take this bipartisanship too far." He noted that our political system is constructed of openly competing interests. "Let's fight it out," he said.

As Jon Meacham shows in his new biography of Andrew Jackson, "American Lion," that's good history and good leadership. President Jackson fought as fiercely against his political enemies as he did against the British or the Indians. And he left his country stronger than he found it.

I'm sure President Obama would welcome Republican support for his efforts to rebuild the economy, restore the environment and resolve the wars. He may even get some. I hope, though, that he doesn't forget who won the election, and why.

His inaugural lecture and his first acts in office have suggested, to me at least, that he intends to keep his promises. That's what the great presidents have done.

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.


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Comments

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp January 25, 2009 | 3:14 p.m.

I think Pres. Obama is trying to get us to "manage" our expectations. I think after a decade of pure unchecked greed and fraud by corporations all over the map; and the pervasive "I've gotta have it now" attitude; a somber era of sacrifice, service and common sense may be in order.

I would be happy to forgo ANY tax cuts to instead focus the HEAVILY on infrastructure. Americans appear willing to sacrifice and make big changes. I for one; would like the administration to think big and out of the box. Its risky -- but now is the time to do it. Light rail, enhanced technology across the spectrum in the public and private sector, an emphasis science and seriously "re-engineering" government as we know it would be fantastic investments. I want to see the government invest heavily in infrastructure that will benefit the next generation.

As far as I am concerned this is a one time opportunity to challenge party ideology on both sides of the political aisle to pursue investments in human capital that make our nation and its people not only competitive in the world marketplace... BUT SMARTER.

Wake up citizens -- we can't afford to spend or pay attention less and expect more.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 25, 2009 | 3:36 p.m.

>>> I for one would like the administration to think big and out of the box. <<<

This is the way I have always felt as it should be but you have so many citizens who do not want this style of thinking.

It is sad as it holds back many from having opportunities that are there if developed.

People are truly more into helping self and exclusion than into helping others and inclusion.

It is a disease of the mind I assure you.

(Report Comment)
Ed Numbe January 26, 2009 | 7:27 a.m.

Our long local nightmare, which you may think of as the George Kennedy editorialship of the Columbia Manurian, continues. Here is a pinky liberal pen boy, a bow-tie Kool-Aid sipper, pretending - pretending - that his small little itty bitty voice matters. Sorry George Kennedy, but George W. Bush was twice democratically elected the Leader of the Free World, while you sipped coffee at Starbucks and doted in your journal how much you loved "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". By the way, George Kennedy has lead MU and our state down the path of economic ruin by running the Columbia Manurian as a cost center. The huge sucking sound you here is that of George Kennedy and the liberal journalism school syphoning money from the good citizens of Missouri. George Kennedy - stop wearing your thong!

Let's be honest, George Kennedy is a poster child for liberal media perspectives that have no idea of how to report objectively. We are in the midst of the worst journalistic exploits in modern history. No objective news can be found.

So, in the spirt of being objective, lets look at Obama Week 1: his pick for Treasury did not pay income taxes, but gets a Mulligan; his pick for deputy Secretary of Defense is a lobbyist, but gets a Mulligan; he chooses who will and will not be able to ask questions at his press conferences (no tough critical questions, only those like George Kennedy who drank the Kool Aid); he free jihad terrorist from GITMO; he murders human embryos so that selfish killers like Michael J. Fox can drink coffee without shaking; he attempts to swindle the America public into a $825B spending bill chalked full of liberal pet projects like endowment for the arts, family planning, healthcare and unemployment insurance.

Change? This is change? Since George Kennedy will not report objectively on this, let me be the first to say it - THIS IS NOT CHANGE! This is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Our long national nightmare, which you may think of as the Obama presidency, is just beginning......

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