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The Bastard at the Wedding

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At the risk of being the above bastard, I am, despite my better instincts, compelled to express my concerns about the "coronation" aspects of today's Inauguration. Yes, this is a wonderful, an historic, event -- a celebration of a democracy so certain of itself that it can elect a member of a formally despised minority as its Commander in Chief. It is, in the best sense of the word, "awesome".

Having said all that, I still feel entitled to express my doubts. Barack Obama was elected to the Presidency of the Harvard Law Review because the conservative Federalists who were members of the Law Review thought that he would be easier to get along with than his more progressive opponent. Obama's the guy who told black Harvard alumni to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt when the President promised to rebuild New Orleans after Katrina. He's the guy who told Christian Evangelists that he would give more money to "Faith Based" groups than George W. Bush did, that he'd bring faith based groups into the White House, and give them a chance to help set the national agenda. He's talked considerably about turning America green, and then, with the exception of one Nobel laureate, appointed a bunch of second-raters to lead his environmental initiatives.

His economic stimulus program (if the recently proposed Congressional bailout bill accurately reflects it) is a potpourri; one third tax cuts, mostly on the first $8100 of personal income; about twenty percent in grants to states and municipalities to pay for Medicaid costs and local public education; with eleven percent going for new infrastructure and six percent to encourage energy efficiency. There's nothing in the bill that reflects additional aid to banks and other financial institutions, but that's certainly in the pipeline; note the November Bush administration TALF program--a $200 billion boondoggle to the banks, supposedly to provide government-backed loans, both past and future, to consumers and small businessmen. It's so badly designed that it invites another "under-secured credit" crash. His other financial bailout plans don't seem much better. (See Paul Krugman's column in yesterday's Times.) That's not enough to even begin to solve our economic problems.

Despite the new President's best intentions, Iraq will probably take longer than eighteen months, and Guantanamo will take longer than immediately. Afghanistan gets messier every day, Pakistan teeters, Iran grows nuclear and Somalia is falling into the terrorists' basket.

The Presidency is the toughest job in the world, and right now, and I think it calls for bold, strong action by Barack Obama, and I am afraid that he may be, by nature, a compromiser, and that's why I feel like the bastard at the wedding.