Presidential inaugurations are a civic ritual in our nation. It is a rare moment when official Washington, and the country, set aside partisan battles and celebrate a sacred tradition of American democracy. Campaigns are hard-fought but when they are done, we set aside political differences and marvel in America's long history of peaceful transfers of power. Yesterday, however, President Obama seemed determined to continue campaigning and used his address to score points against his political opposition.
Obama's address was so politically pointed that it elicited a strong reaction from UT Sen. Mike Lee:
Unfortunately for the country, on a day when the president should speak with a unifying voice for all Americans, his inaugural speech was, instead, a disappointing reprise of his divisive campaign rhetoric. Rather than define us as a nation, he chose to divide us as a people. This is not the approach of a leader attempting to find solutions to problems but rather the tactics of a partisan trying to pick political fights. His vision for the next four years is clear: defend a broken system, ignore the fiscal crisis, and drive future generations further into debt.
Obama's decision to add a partisan edge to a speech that is typically used to appeal to American's aspirations is not a good way to begin difficult budget negotiations. Successful negotiations require some measure of good faith between the parties. Obama, however, tried to score political points at a traditionally non-partisan event. As Sen. Lee's statement indicates, it has driven the two sides further apart.