Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama's Inaugural Address

President Obama's Inaugural Address
January 20, 2009

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition. Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Tribute to President Obama

Celebrities pay powerful, heartfelt tribute to President Obama:


Next AG Eric Holder, Wiretaps, and FISA

Holder for Wiretaps. WSJ Editorial
The AG nominee bows on Presidential power
WSJ, Jan 20, 2009

First it was the special surveillance court that we learned last week has affirmed the President's constitutional power to undertake warrantless wiretaps. Now comes Attorney General nominee Eric Holder, who endorsed this executive authority during his confirmation hearing late last week.

During Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Utah's Orrin Hatch read Mr. Holder a passage from a speech the nominee gave to the American Constitution Society in June of last year. Mr. Holder had said, "I never thought I would see that a President would act in direct defiance of federal law by authorizing warrantless NSA surveillance of American citizens," referring to the National Security Agency program. "This disrespect for the law is not only wrong. It is destructive in our struggle against terrorism."

The Republican Senator was sniffing out Mr. Holder's views on executive power under the Constitution and whether Congress can pass laws, such as the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, that limit it. "Do you believe," asked Mr. Hatch, "that the President has -- that whoever is President has -- inherent authority under Article II of the Constitution to engage in warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance? Or, in your opinion, does FISA trump Article II?"

Mr. Holder answered with some political tap dancing. "There's an exclusivity provision in the FISA act that essentially says, as Congress has expressed, this is the exclusive way in which that surveillance should occur," he said. "My speech was taking the Administration to task for not following the dictates of FISA. As I indicated -- I think in response to a previous question -- I think that had the Administration worked with Congress, as we are pledging to do, that tool, a very valuable tool, a very valuable tool, could have been in the arsenal of the Administration without any question about its legality."

Senator Hatch pressed him on this point, resulting in the following exchange:

Mr. Hatch: "Back to my prior point, the President's inherent authority under the Constitution. Can that be limited by a statute? You're relying on a statute as though that's binding on Article II of the Constitution."

Mr. Holder: "Well, the President obviously has powers under the Constitution that cannot be infringed by the legislative branch. That's what I was saying earlier. There are powers that the President has delegated to him -- that he has -- and Congress does not have the ability to say, with regard to those powers, you cannot exercise them. There's always a tension in trying to decide where that balance is struck. And I think we see the best result when we see Congress interacting with the President, the executive branch interacting with the legislative branch and coming up with solutions . . ."

Mr. Hatch: "That still doesn't negate the fact that the President may have inherent powers under Article II that even a statute cannot vary."

Mr. Holder: "Sure."

Mr. Hatch: "Do you agree with that statement?"

Holder: "Yeah. There are certain things that a President has the constitutional right, authority to do, that the legislative branch cannot impinge upon."

Hatch: "Okay."

[More faithfully reproduced questioning in Eric Posner's post at Volokh Conspiracy. See at the end]

So let's see. Mr. Holder now concedes that Presidents have inherent powers that even a statute can't abridge, notwithstanding his campaign speeches. That makes us feel better about a General Holder on national security. But his concession is further evidence that the liberal accusations about "breaking the law" and "illegal wiretaps" of the last several years were mostly about naked partisanship. Mr. Holder's objection turns out to be merely the tactical political one that the Bush Administration would have been better off negotiating with Congress for wiretap approval, not that it was breaking the law. Now he tells us.

[Eric Posner's post at Volokh Conspiracy, picking from the NYT transcript]

LEAHY: Do you believe that the president of the United States has authority to exercise a commander-in-chief override and immunize acts of torture? I ask that because we did not get a satisfactory answer from Former Attorney General Gonzales on that.
HOLDER: Mr. Chairman, no one is above the law. The president has a constitutional obligation to faithfully execute the laws of the United States. There are obligations that we have as a result of treaties that we have signed — obligations, obviously, in the Constitution. Where Congress has passed a law, it is the obligation of the president, or the commander-in-chief, to follow those laws.

FEINGOLD: … First, what is your view of the president's constitutional authority to authorize violation of the criminal law, duly enact the statutes that may have been on the books for many years when acting as commander-in- chief?
HOLDER: The president, as I've said, is not above the law, has a constitutional obligation to follow the law and execute the laws that this Congress passes. If you look at the Steel Seizure concurrence of Justice Jackson that, I think, sets out in really wonderful form the power that the president has and where the president's power is strongest and where it is weakest.
It is weakest in Category 3 where Congress has indicated something contrary to what the president wants to do. That is where Justice Jackson says the president's power is at its lowest level. And I think — I'm not a constitutional scholar — but I think that there has never been a president who's been upheld when he's tried to act in Category 3. I think, but I'm not sure.
FEINGOLD: I believe that's right. And I want to follow that. Using the construct of Justice Jackson, more specifically, does the president, in your opinion, have the authority, acting as commander- in-chief, to authorize warrantless searches of Americans homes and wiretaps of their conversations in violation of the criminal and foreign intelligence statutes of this country?
HOLDER: I think you're then getting into Category 3 behavior by the president. Justice Jackson did not say that the president did not have any ability to act in Category 3. Although, as I said, I'm not sure there's ever been an instance where (inaudible) courts have said that the president did act appropriately in that category.
It seems to maybe it's difficult it imagine a set of circumstances given the hypothetical that you have used and given the statutes that you have referenced that the president would be acting in an appropriate way given the Jackson construct, when I think is a good one.

HATCH: … Now, do you believe that the president has — whoever is president of the United States — has inherent authority under Article 2 of the Constitution to engage in warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance? Or, in your opinion, does FISA trump Article 2?
HOLDER: Senator, no one is above the law. The president has the constitutional obligation to make sure that the laws are faithfully executed. In rare instances where Congress passes a law that is obviously unconstitutional — if, for instance, Congress were to pass a law that the secretary of defense should be the commander-in-chief, or that women would not have the right to vote — I think that the president in that instance would have the ability to act contrary to a congressional dictate.

OK. But back to our prior point, is the president's inherent authority under the Constitution — can that be limited by a statute?
HOLDER: The president's inherent authority. Well...
HATCH: Right.
HOLDER: ... it's...
HATCH: I mean, you're relying on the statute as though that's binding on Article 2 of the Constitution.
HOLDER: Well, the president obviously has powers under the Constitution that cannot be infringed by the legislative branch. That's what I was saying earlier.
There are powers that the president has, and that have been delegated to him that he has. And in the absence — Congress does not have the ability to say, with regard to those powers, you cannot exercise them. There's always the tension in trying to decide where that balance is struck. And I think we see the best result when we see Congress interacting with the president, the executive branch interacting with the legislative branch, and coming up with solutions...
HATCH: That still doesn't negate the fact that the president may have inherent powers under Article 2 that even a statute cannot vary.
HOLDER: Well, sure. The...
HATCH: Do you agree with that statement?
HOLDER: Yes, there are certain things that the president has the constitutional right, authority to do, that the legislative branch cannot impinge upon.

Bush's Real Sin Was Winning in Iraq

Bush's Real Sin Was Winning in Iraq, by William McGurn
WSJ, Jan 20, 2009

In a few hours, George W. Bush will walk out of the Oval Office for the last time as president. As he leaves, he carries with him the near-universal opprobrium of the permanent class that inhabits our nation's capital. Yet perhaps the most important reason for this unpopularity is the one least commented on.

Here's a hint: It's not because of his failures. To the contrary, Mr. Bush's disfavor in Washington owes more to his greatest success. Simply put, there are those who will never forgive Mr. Bush for not losing a war they had all declared unwinnable.

Here in the afterglow of the turnaround led by Gen. David Petraeus, it's easy to forget what the smart set was saying two years ago -- and how categorical they all were in their certainty. The president was a simpleton, it was agreed. Didn't he know that Iraq was a civil war, and the only answer was to get out as fast as we could?

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- the man who will be sworn in as vice president today -- didn't limit himself to his own opinion. Days before the president announced the surge, Joe Biden suggested to the Washington Post he knew the president's people had also concluded the war was lost. They were, he said, just trying to "keep it from totally collapsing" until they could "hand it off to the next guy."

For his part, on the night Mr. Bush announced the surge, Barack Obama said he was "not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

Three months after that, before the surge had even started, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pronounced the war in Iraq "lost." These and similar comments, moreover, were amplified by a media echo chamber even more absolute in its sense of hopelessness about Iraq and its contempt for the president.

For many of these critics, the template for understanding Iraq was Vietnam -- especially after things started to get tough. In terms of the wars themselves, of course, there is almost no parallel between Vietnam and Iraq: The enemies are different, the fighting on the ground is different, the involvement of other powers is different, and so on.

Still, the operating metaphor of Vietnam has never been military. For the most part, it is political. And in this realm, we saw history repeat itself: a failure of nerve among the same class that endorsed the original action.

As with Vietnam, with Iraq the failure of nerve was most clear in Congress. For example, of the five active Democratic senators who sought the nomination, four voted in favor of the Iraqi intervention before discovering their antiwar selves.

As in Vietnam too, rather than finding their judgment questioned, those who flip-flopped on the war were held up as voices of reason. In a memorable editorial advocating a pullout, the New York Times gave voice to the chilling possibilities that this new realism was willing to accept in the name of bringing our soldiers home.

"Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave," read the editorial. "There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide." Even genocide. With no hint of irony, the Times nevertheless went on to conclude that it would be even worse if we stayed.

This is Vietnam thinking. And the president never accepted it. That was why his critics went ape when, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he touched on the killing fields and exodus of boat people that followed America's humiliating exit off an embassy rooftop. As the Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti noted, Mr. Bush had appropriated one of their most cherished analogies -- only he drew very different lessons from it.

Mr. Bush's success in Iraq is equally infuriating, because it showed he was right and they wrong. Many in Washington have not yet admitted that, even to themselves. Mr. Obama has. We know he has because he has elected to keep Mr. Bush's secretary of defense -- not something you do with a failure.

Mr. Obama seems aware that, at the end of the day, he will not be judged by his predecessor's approval ratings. Instead, he will soon find himself under pressure to measure up to two Bush achievements: a strategic victory in Iraq, and the prevention of another attack on America's home soil. As he rises to this challenge, our new president will learn that when you make a mistake, the keepers of the Beltway's received orthodoxies will make you pay dearly.

But it will not even be close to the price you pay for ignoring their advice and succeeding.

TNYT: 70% of all contries are more energy efficient than the US

Massive Confusion in the New York Times, by Roger Pielke, Jr.
Prometheus, January 19th, 2009

Today’s New York Times has an editorial in which it claims that:

The plain truth is that the United States is an inefficient user of energy. For each dollar of economic product, the United States spews more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than 75 of 107 countries tracked in the indicators of the International Energy Agency. Those doing better include not only cutting-edge nations like Japan but low-tech countries like Thailand and Mexico.

The first problem with this set of claims is that the New York Times confuses energy efficiency with carbon dioxide intensity of the economy. The second error is that the New York Times uses market exchange rates as the basis for evaluating U.S. carbon dioxide per dollar of GDP against other countries, rather than the more appropriate metric of international GDP comparisons using purchasing power parities.

So the New York Times makes a muddle of reality when it suggests that the United States is an “inefficient user of energy” suggesting that 70% of all contries are more efficient than the United States.

This is just wrong.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration on energy consumption (BTUs) per unit of GDP (PPP) shows that the United States is more efficient than about 68% of all countries. Similarly, the United States emissions of carbon dioxide per unit of GDP is better than 69% of countries.

To be sure, there are a number of countries that make excellent models for how the United States might become more efficient and reduce the carbon intensity of its economy, including Japan and Germany. However, as models to emulate, Mexico and Thailand, as suggested by the Times, are probably not the best examples.

Decarbonizing the economy will be an enormous task. It will be impossible if the problem is fundamentally misunderstood.

IPCC Teams Up with WorldWatch to Attack Obama

IPCC Teams Up with WorldWatch to Attack Obama, by Roger Pielke, Jr.
Prometheus, January 19th, 2009

The “policy neutral” IPCC is once again making a mockery of its role of an arbiter of scientific information, in favor of all out political advocacy. EurActiv reports the details:

If the world is to tackle the climate threat, the US President-elect must beef up his country’s emissions targets, the head of the leading intergovernmental organisation of climate scientists said last week (15 January).

“President-elect Obama’s goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 falls short of the response needed by world leaders to meet the challenge of reducing emissions to levels that will actually spare us the worst effects of climate change,” said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), at a Worldwatch Institute event.

In a new study on the state of the world in 2009, the institute argues that global CO2 emissions must be reduced to negative figures by 2050 to avoid a looming climate catastrophe.

It calls on the US, a major polluter, to assume leadership by passing national climate legislation and engaging with the international community to achieve a new agreement on halting emissions at next December’s talks in Copenhagen.

“The world is desperately looking for US leadership to slow emissions and create a green economy,” said Christopher Flavin, president of the Worldwatch Institute. “With the Copenhagen climate conference rapidly approaching, this will be a crucial early test for President Obama.”

Pachauri warned that there may not be an “adequate global response” unless the US steps up to the plate. “He ran for the presidency of the United States, so he assumed the responsibility,” the Nobel Prize recipient commented as to the weight of Obama’s task.