Precis: Barack Obama's inauguration engenders hope in many hearts, but is hardly the triumph it might seem at first glance. Beyond the earnest wishes and projected aspirations of his starry-eyed supporters, Obama remains an abiding mystery, an ambitious enigma who has carefully crafted a public persona of All Things to All People.
The Chief Executive must be made of sterner stuff and I am filled with foreboding. The last two presidents have proven unequal to the greatness of the tasks, yet both were elected to two terms. I have some confidence in Obama, far less in those who surround him and none whatsoever in the Congress or the Supreme Court. Hard times are ahead: the bets are on the table and we will either succeed greatly or fail greatly.
The text of today's sermon is taken from Tennyson's Idyll's of the King
So, when their feet were planted on the plain
That broadened toward the base of Camelot,
Far off they saw the silver-misty morn
Rolling her smoke about the Royal mount,
That rose between the forest and the field.
At times the summit of the high city flashed;
At times the spires and turrets half-way down
Pricked through the mist; at times the great gate shone
Only, that opened on the field below:
Anon, the whole fair city had disappeared.
Then those who went with Gareth were amazed,
One crying, 'Let us go no further, lord.
Here is a city of Enchanters, built
By fairy Kings.' The second echoed him,
'Lord, we have heard from our wise man at home
To Northward, that this King is not the King,
But only changeling out of Fairyland,
Who drave the heathen hence by sorcery
And Merlin's glamour.' Then the first again,
'Lord, there is no such city anywhere,
But all a vision.'
Part the First: The Royal Mount
The festivities of the moment are upon us. Our government has passed peacefully from one regime to another, all done with seeming comity and good order. The outgoing president has behaved himself with a measure of grace, and if he's recently indulged in a bit self-excusing, I'll forgive him that little. The country convulses with paroxysms of delight and hope. But delight is a child on Christmas morning before the toy breaks, and hope's what people have when nothing's happened yet.
Yet how should we react to the election of our new President, how should he be seen?
Every child in Civics class is taught of the tripartite divisions of power in our government. Over time, Congress has ceded many of its powers to an ever-more-powerful Executive. The courts are left to puzzle through the morass: the Fourth Amendment is as dead as the tyrannosaurs, and where Congress might have stood up to the Executive over warrantless wiretapping and the connivance of the telephone companies, now Congress abjectly capitulates to passing legislation absolving one and all. Pardon via ex-post-facto legislation is the order of the day, meaningless subpoenas issued to paper over the violations of our rights.
For all his good intentions, President Obama must pole his johnboat through the swamps at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. It is no accident Obama has befriended so many ardent Conservatives: he will need their maps and tide tables to navigate those shallow waters, divining the falsity and treachery within his own party. Nor is the choice of Joe Biden as Vice President an idle concession to vote-getting: from his perch atop the dais of the Senate, Biden will cast his jaundiced eye upon the doings of those self-important rascals and report it all to his novice commander. For this reason the Congressional Democrats have promised to push Biden away from their caucuses, they know what's up, none better. The last two years of Democratic majorities have produced no substantive reforms or investigations and I expect none in future. The Republican minority may prove Obama's secret weapon: the shillelagh with which he shall beat the do-nothing Democrats into line.
Washington, indeed the whole world is convulsed by the spectacle of a Black Man elected to the Presidency of the United States. The TV burbles in the corner, Larry King solicits the opinions of the scions and also-rans of the Black Civil Rights movement. My own heritage includes many unsung heroes of the Black Civil Rights era, and the blazing crosses of the Klan illuminated my nigger-lovin' grandfather's home. Lynching was a common enough thing in the shantytown just down East Cleveland Avenue in East Point Georgia. While the multitudes gather on the Mall, the grim realities of Washington D.C.'s less-fortunate permanent residents remain a lasting disgrace to our nation.
l am therefore horrified to see fawning encomiums heaped upon any man judged on the color of his skin. I am disgusted to hear the phrase Post-Racial bandied about, vaguely nauseated by the saccharine enthusiasms of persons of color who look upon Obama as their personal savior. Ecce Homo, Obama is only a man. A good man, certainly, but he is no more than a man.
Barack Obama sat in a church pew, soaking up the intemperate and racially-divisive works of Rev. Jeremiah Wright whose church unabashedly preaches a black separatist vision of Jesus Christ despite our Lord's explicit words to the contrary. We are the product of all who shaped us, and if the portly, goateed, allegedly homophobic Pastor Rick Warren gives the opening invocation of the Almighty at the end of this race, let no man forget it was Rev. Jeremiah Wright who gave the invocation on the steps of the old Illinois State Capital when Obama stepped up to the starting line of this race. I know enough of the American Black theologians to know they, too, have no more tolerance for homosexual persons than the genial Reverend Warren.
My own faith has changed over time: increasingly I find myself at odds with what passes for both organized religion and organized politics. It all seems a sham, a framework for the indulgence of comfortable and patently dangerous nonsense. Politicians cuddle up to religion with obscene frottage, making profane and false obeisance to the sacred abstractions. The political parties swear false oaths to the causes of justice, true faith and allegiance only to themselves and their causes. Watch and see, there will be no accounting for the evils done in our name over the past decades. There will instead be a massive glossing-over, a titanic national delusion, a gargantuan avoidance mechanism shall be erected where today stand the banners of battle and the trophies of victory.
Yes We Might.
Yes we can. We might. But we probably won't. That we ought to change will never again be given voice: the leathery prophets in the wilderness who preached of wickedness in high places and the coming of change shall be politely ignored.
Obama's cabinet is richly populated with the hacks of yore, chiefly of Clinton vintage. If in February of 2001, a Martian read the resumes of Bush the Dumber's Cabinet choices, he might also be convinced the nation was well-led by seasoned veterans if the Chief Executive was no such thing. Bush was led about by the nose, a man out of his league. Given the Abgrund between resumes and results, why should I believe Obama's well-seasoned hacks will serve his cause any better than Bush's hacks served his?
I reserve judgment on Barack Obama's chances against the fecklessness of Congress, especially against the wiles of that shameless, skeevy varlet Harry Reid and the equally execrable Nancy Pelosi. Already we have seen this pair of villains dole out our money, more precisely our children's money, into the rat holes of the still-unregulated financial system without even the fig leaf of accountability. All talk of the no-bid contracts in Iraq must now be put in abeyance: at least those contracts were on the record. The utter shamelessness of the whole wretched TARP mechanism shows Congress has placed itself as far beyond the reach of accountability as ever did the Executive over the last two terms.
Already we see the hushing up of the Progressives, the political dog returns to his vomit as the fool does to his folly. We will not be given substantive change if the Congress and the courtiers have anything to say about it. These skulking eunuchs may reduce Obama to Clinton the Second, that weathervane of gormlessness and doubletalk. Already we see a Clinton as Secretary of State and that woman is no Progressive politician. I remember how the Daily Kossacks drave the heathen Hillarites from thence by sorcery from their orange Elysium. But the marriage counselors and psychologists of the Democratic Party saw fit to welcome them back. It is with deepest contempt I must tell you all as I told them then it was the Kossacks who were fooled: Hillary's political judo trumped all their prattle and trumps it still. Eighteen million votes is a whole lotta ass meat. Hillary Clinton proved the master of the hane goshi throw and the Progressives were thrown in the air, landing in disarray on the political mat. Now the Progressives promise to hold Obama's feet to the fire, but he has no further use for their wise man at home to Northward. This King is not their King and his vision is not their vision. Ever is the vision of the politician that of power and power is votes, the only poll that ever mattered.
Lord, there is no such city anywhere, but all is a vision. America's spires and turrets are built on mountains of debt and a fairyland of trust in the faithless apostles of the unregulated Free Market. We have indulged ourselves in fantasies of national superiority and continue to do so, all the while condemning the Islamists who make no bones of their urge to subdue the world to their own vision of harsh justice and superiority. Think Obama won't perpetuate these fantasies? He's going to send even more troops into Afghanistan, recapitulating the failures of Bush in Iraq, in the one place in the world where every textbook of military history tells us empires go to die. Less Lincoln and more Plutarch for President Obama: let our Fearless Leader see how Alexander fared east of Persia, both in the nature of Alexander's successes and failures.
Anon, the whole fair city had disappeared, the reckoning has come due. Yet the illusion has not been dispelled.
Obama is a fine man, as good a man as the times have produced and the country is well-pleased with him, both Republicans and Democrats alike are charmed by his glamour. But of old, the word Glamour meant a spell of illusion,
For there is nothing in it as it seems
Saving the King; though some there be that hold
The King a shadow, and the city real:
Yet take thou heed of him, for, so thou pass
Beneath this archway, then wilt thou become
A thrall to his enchantments, for the King
Will bind thee by such vows, as is a shame
A man should not be bound by, yet the which
No man can keep; but, so thou dread to swear,
Pass not beneath this gateway, but abide
Without, among the cattle of the field.
For an ye heard a music, like enow
They are building still, seeing the city is built
To music, therefore never built at all,
And therefore built for ever.
The USA is a republic: we grant mandate to our leaders for a set period of time, but once granted, nothing short of impeachment or death can drive them out until the next election. We lack a No Confidence vote as does a parliamentary system. We're stuck with this guy, for better or worse, let us hope for better. He will be better, but of this we have no guarantee at all, despite his vastly enlarged powers, granted to him by Congress. Obama may replace a few Supreme Court justices, but even those appointments will only shore up the aging Liberal cause: unless a large meteorite strike kills them all en banc, Bush's true legacy is will be his SCOTUS appointments. Scalia and his Stepin Fetchit butler Clarence Thomas remain spry and healthy, perfectly capable of doing great damage to what remains of the Constitution. Do not look to the hidebound mummies of Strict Construction in this Supreme Court for any vindication or return of our rights in law, especially not from Chief Justice Roberts, who has shown his true colors of late. And I had such hopes for him.
While the adoring eyes of the world turn to the young man behind the podium, my own eyes are turned to the horizon. The world will soon tire of its infatuation with our handsome and charismatic president, as they tired of John F. Kennedy, another handsome man whose shallow eloquence led us closer to the nuclear abyss than at any time in history. And it was Kennedy who played with fire in Vietnam, played fast and loose with the facts, whose idealism was ill-served by the Best and Brightest who surrounded him. Have a caution in this moment of national pride that your love is not misplaced, that you do not become a thrall to enchantments, for we are already bound to vows we cannot keep. That city is built to music, therefore never built at all and therefore built forever.