Guy W. Farmer: President Obama issues a progressive manifesto

If there was ever any question about whether President Obama is a dyed-in-the-wool "progressive," he delivered an inaugural address that dispelled any doubts about that question.

While the president proclaimed the importance of liberal issues like gay rights, gun control, women in combat, and climate change, he failed to mention the most serious problem facing our nation - a runaway national debt fueled by profligate spending that threatens to bankrupt the country. The federal government simply can't continue to spend more money than it takes in, but Obama ignored that issue in his disappointing inaugural address.

"It was a flat, partisan and pedestrian speech," wrote Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. "The speech lacked the unifying or transcendent ideas that could help Obama do much more than continue the Washington version of trench warfare . . ." So much for "bringing us together," which was Obama's first-term promise.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called the speech "a paean to big government. . . . spectacularly devoid of any acknowledgment of the central threat to postindustrial democracies (as already seen in Europe) - the crisis of an increasingly insolvent entitlement state."

"We are bogged down with a bloated political system, a tangled tax code, a byzantine legal code and crushing debt," wrote David Brooks, the New York Times' token conservative. Like Brooks, I have much more confidence in free-market economics than I do in government control of the economy, which is the definition of socialism.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to oppose Obama at every turn so the trench warfare isn't surprising. Let's call it government by gridlock, and that won't change until and unless congressional Democrats and Republicans can find common ground on the debt crisis. Congress must cut out-of-control spending and entitlements in order to balance the federal budget. That's why I support the House Republicans' proposal to agree to raise the debt ceiling if Obama will reduce spending by an equal amount.

Obama said little about foreign affairs in his inaugural address, but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her successor, Sen. John Kerry, who took over on Friday, more than made up for that omission. Testifying about the Benghazi terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya, Ms. Clinton fiercely defended her department and the U.S. Foreign Service. Although she accepted responsibility for the Benghazi fiasco, she failed to answer all of the questions put to her, such as why the U.S. military wasn't called in shortly after the terrorists attacked.

Here's an unanswered question for Ms. Clinton, Sen. Kerry and the White House: Why was American Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, one of the most dangerous places in the world, on the anniversary of 9/11? Especially after the ambassador had issued a number of security warnings and requested additional security before he went to Benghazi on that fateful day.

Ms. Clinton denied that State and the White House misled the American people by blaming the attack on an obscure anti-Islamic video, but in fact that's exactly what happened when U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went on five Sunday-morning talk shows to peddle that false version of events.

President Obama has many complicated and controversial issues to deal with during his second term, both domestic and international. I wish him well.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer.


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