America gets ready for new leadership (or is it back to the future?)

Here is an excerpt from a draft of President-Elect Obama’s inaugural speech, showing that vision and eloquence which have brought him to the highest office at such a relatively young age.

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective.

We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife. With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.

Or maybe not.  Whose words are these?

Here is a longer excerpt from this speech:

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective.

We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife. With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.

Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations. It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us.

But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure. I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.

But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.

Yes, this is FDR’s First Inaugural Address.  Like him or not, this man knew how to give a speech — with few glittering generalities.  And he delivered what he promised, with respect to action.

Afterword

If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below.  You may find answers to your questions in these.

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp relevance to this topic:

  • about the Financial crisis – what’s happening? how will this end?
  • about the End of the post-WWII geopolitical regime
  • about America – how can we reform it?
  • some Good News about America!
  • Posts about President-Elect Obama

    1.  What do blogs do for America?, 26 February 2008 — As our problems reach critical dimensions and our economy sinks into what is (at best) a severe recession, our national leadership will likely move into the hands of someone with astonishingly little capacity to govern. 

    2.  A look at the next phase of the Iraq War: 2009-2012, 1 March 2008 — What is next in Iraq?  None of the leading candidates have expressed any intention of leaving Iraq – except in the distant and vague future.  McCain intends to fight so long as (or until) we suffer few casualties, then stay for a long time (perhaps a hundred years, as McCain said here and here) ).  On the other hand, Obama has been quite explicit…

    3.  Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay, 3 March 2008 — We can elect leaders with vast ambitions (foreign for McCain, domestic for Obama), but can no longer afford them. 

    4.  How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents?, 21 March 2008 — The Presidential campaign rolls on in the seventh year since 9/11, with the only debate about the Long War being in which nations America should fight. We see this even the speeches of the most “liberal” candidate, Senator Barack Obama.

    5.  American history changes direction as the baton passes between our political parties, 18 May 2008 – Importance of the November 2008 political landslide.

    6.  President Obama, an Muslim apostate?, 2 June 2008 — Nope.

    7.  Is Obama running for the office of Chief Shaman?, 6 June 2008 — Weirdness from our next President.

    8.  Does America need a charismatic President?, 15 July 2008

    9.  More about charisma, by Don Vandergriff…(#2 in the “getting ready for Obama” series), 16 July 2008 — About charisma:  know it before you buy it!

    10.  Obama might be the shaman that America needs, 17 July 2008 — At what point does criticism of Obama’s charisma and rhetoric become criticism of leadership itself — and blind faith in technocratic solutions so loved by policy nerds?  Michael Knox Beran crosses that line in “Obama, Shaman“, City Journal, Summer 2008.

    11.  Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008 — Obama’s statement about America may be the simple truth; this may be why so many find it disturbing.

    12.  These days all American Presidents are War Presidents (part 2), 13 September 2008

    13.  Biden’s gaffes are a threat to American’s complacency!, 13 September 2008

    14.  The evil of socialism approaches!, 22 October 2008 — Economic crisis … a leftist radical President … Can socialism be avoided, or is it our destined fate?

    8 thoughts on “America gets ready for new leadership (or is it back to the future?)

    1. Greg Panfile

      My take on Obama is that he has held back somewhat pending the election and actually finding out in detail what is really going on. The good news in terms of executive power is that Bush and Cheney have already aggregated more of that than Roosevelt ever dreamt of.

      There is a legitimate question or two raised here at least by implication… one, will he be bold enough, and two, will inexperience take too great a toll. These are very reasonable to ask, and I say this as someone who supported Obama in the primaries as well as the general election.

      The hope is that since he is very intelligent, curious, and even-keeled, he will rise to the occasion. That is a position neither guaranteed to be right, nor unreasonable given the evidence. As many have said, if he runs the country as well as he did his campaign, we’ll be all right. And he did pick a Vice President who can both do the job and speak English ALSO, albeit a bit too much…

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    2. alan calhoun

      You don’t get to be the editor of the Harvard Law Review unless you’re a smart cookie. This alone should be a breath of fresh air.

      One problem I see on the horizon is that five or six months into his term, the fallout from the Bush/Cheney junta will still be shooting gamma rays into the economy. Will dim witted Americans start to blame Obama? Do they understand that it is likely to take YEARS to sort out of this mess? We have become an instant gratification society, and that will cause problems for Obama if the recovery is slow and halting, assuming there is a recovery.
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      Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a theory in circulation, as in “Why Obama Looks Like a One Termer“, James Pethokoukis, blogging for US News and World Report, 11 November 2008. {Note: speaking of economic damage, by mocking the signals of the coming recession with his “Dude, Where’s the Recession” columns, Pethokoukis probably discouraged many of those foolish enough to listen to him from preparing before the full force of the downturn hit them}

      This is of course possible. But I doubt the American people are as stupid as Pethokoukis and his ilk believe us to be. The crisis began with the collapse of the mortgage brokers in December 2006, and will start to hit with considerable force in the remaining months of the Bush Administration. The responsibility will be clear, IMO, to most voters — as it was in the 1930’s.

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    3. a

      I find it funny that people are quick to point out the short-sightedness of the American public in regards to judgements on THEIR candidate in office, and yet are equally quick to point to our failing economy as a direct result of an executive who they disagree with it.

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    4. seneca

      The lead article on Thursday’s Common Dreams describes pressure on Obama from top military figures to abandon his timeline for Iraq withdrawal. The article makes it appear almost impossible that BO could win a struggle with the military on this issue.

      This well illustrates my view that Obama’s personal moral and intellectual qualities may have little to do with the policies and actions he eventually takes. His choice of Rahm Emanuel already shows that institutions and constituencies are calling the shots.

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    5. Barry

      If Obama is wise he wil parallel this example of FDR’s rhetoric (and timing). At the begining of the first term FDR talked of combating economic dangers with sacrifice and military discipline. Campaigning to be re-elected he talked in terms of avoiding a military conflict which he probably believed unavoidably necessary. Obama’s advisors will have 4 years to convince him to smash Iran; he will resist doing so untill a second term is secured.
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      Fabius Maximus replies: America declared war only after Pearl Harbor. To make your analogy work Iran would attack us in Obama’s 2nd term.

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    6. Barry

      pressure on Obama from top military figures to abandon his timeline for Iraq withdrawal…makes it appear almost impossible that BO could win a struggle with the military on this issue.

      Robert Gates is a political appointee, if his ideas are not in line with Obama’s why he is keeping his job? Pressure indeed!

      Obama might be putting this story out, and keeping Gates in place to take the heat off a contination of previous policy.
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      Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed. We might have something like the Kennedy Administration, liberal President with a conservative (i.e., neo-con in today’s politics) foreign policy.

      I discussed this on 21 March in “How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents?”

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    7. seneca

      “Fabius Maximus replies: America declared war only after Pearl Harbor. To make your analogy work Iran would attack us in Obama’s 2nd term.”

      That is SO last year! We don’t need real attacks anymore, only “existential threats”. Barry’s probably right — the deal with Israel has already been struck. Just wait for the second term!
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      Fabius Maximus replies: This looks to me like totally unsubstantiated conspiracy-mongering. In the absence of any evidence, these speculations deserve zero attention and discredit those who advocate them (i.e., as anything but speculation).

      President-elect Obama has not even selected his national security team. And it is highly unlikely that such a deal could be kept secret for over 4 years.

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    8. bc

      Boy, still, reading this you can see why Pew, and other rich guys were scared witless by FDR. There was an actual private army funded by these guys to forcibly remove him. The scheme collapsed when their hired gun general ratted them out. FDR took the news in stride and suppressed the public revelation of this rather important happening. FDR’s advisers at one point strongly suggested it was the end of democracy as our noble experiment, and he should assume dictatorial authority. He demurred, and stayed the course holding to our constitution as much as possible. Today, absent this context, he is derided for moving us too far to the left too quickly. By any measure, a real man.
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      Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed! Also, his balancing act in the early stages of WWII (pre-Pearl Harbor) was masterful. America is fortunate to have had such leaders in times of great need.

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