Inaugural Addresses–and all political speeches in general–are masterpieces of ambiguity. Low on specifics and high on lofty euphemisms and well-worn cliches, they seek to both reassure voters and provide sufficient cover for later, quite possibly nefarious actions. President Barack Obama’s address today (click here to watch it, here to read it) was no different. One paragraph in particular stood out to me:
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.
Obama is talking to us here, but there is no reason why we can’t turn this around and say the same thing to him. Over the last eight years, high officials in his predecessor’s administration committed what can only be described as “war crimes” in the name of prosecuting our vaunted “war on terror.” This nation, with its commitment to justice and human rights, and the rest of world, which has long looked to this nation for guidance and leadership in such matters, cannot allow these crimes–and the officials responsible–to go unpunished or even uninvestigated.