President Obama gives his second inaugural address.
President Obama was sworn into office Monday, bringing with him plenty of progressive promises. “We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity,” Obama told the hundreds of thousands who gathered at the National Mall. “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but our posterity,” the president said, referencing the need to address climate change.
But while Obama made several nods to liberal reforms, the question remains — will he follow up on these guarantees? Or will the pressure in Washington once again moderate the president, driving him away from his progressive ideals?
“We will respond to the threat of climate change,” the president said, “knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” With nods to sustainable energy, powerful storms and preservation, Obama began his second term with a firm commitment to the planet. While mention of climate change was a relief to many, Obama’s affirmation to the cause is reminiscent of promises he made in 2008 — promises that were by and large unkept in his first term in the Oval Office. In the 2012 presidential debates, sustainable energy hardly received any mention at all from either candidate. In fact, Obama made clear that his priority would be job recovery, and any allusion to climate change and economic development was brushed off as only a topic of “conversation.”
In December, Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, stepped down from her position after completing her fourth year in office. While serving as administrator, Jackson received a lot of push back from the executive branch, with large-scale efforts to combat the changing climate abandoned by the Obama administration. This was a far cry from Obama, version 2008, who committed $150 billion to energy-efficient technology. “My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process,” the president said at a video conference in November 2008. Three years later, Obama rejected a proposed new standard for ozone pollution pushed by Jackson, arguing that such regulation would be bad for business.
Obama’s engagement in drone warfare also suggests a retreat from former progressive beliefs. “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war,” the president declared in Monday’s inauguration address. Yet the Obama administration backpedaled on this issue, too, in the president’s first four years in office. Use of drones shot up during Obama’s first term, with the White House green-lighting strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. “It is estimated that the CIA and the U.S. military have undertaken more than 300 drone strikes and killed about 2,500 people,” The Guardian reported. Given the large-scale nature of these unmanned aerial-vehicle attacks, the Obama administration has kept relatively quiet on the topic of drones, never fully discussing the reasons for such attacks or addressing the civilian deaths that surround the practice. If the president is truly committed to avoiding “perpetual war,” then transparency — or better yet, abandoning drones all together — is beyond necessary.
This isn’t to say that Obama filled his inauguration speech with fluffy lies. The president has once again made specific commitments to the reformist ideals he once advocated. But as the president begins his final term in office, he must remain committed to his progressive pledge. While political moderation may be helpful in negotiation, withdrawing from the beliefs that got the president into office can no longer be tolerated.
Powered by Facebook Comments