Ross Douthat is a columnist for the New York Times.

Ross Douthat is a columnist for the New York Times.

Ross Douthat: What President Obama really meant to say this week ...

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President Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural Address, revised for maximum honesty:

My fellow Americans, I am grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of the consequential times in which we live, and determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.

(Long pause)

Hey, no, just kidding: That’s from George W. Bush’s second inaugural. I just wanted to see if you could tell the difference.

I’m going to keep this brief, because we’re all cold and there’s always a chance that the House Republicans might start imitating the Donner Party if we stay out here too long.

(Broad wink at Eric Cantor)

You already know how the better angels of our nature are going to make hope and history rhyme, and all the usual fluff. So I’ll skip that part. But before my second term gets under way, I do have a few people from the last four years I want to acknowledge.

First, my dear friends in the press and on the professional left (but I repeat myself). It’s so nice to have you back on the bandwagon, guys! I’ve been surfing the Interwebs, reading the tweets, and it feels like old times. The Obama realignment is all the rage again. The thrill is back on MSNBC. Newsweek’s comparing me to Jesus. All I need is a will.i.am video to really take me back.

But don’t think I’ve forgotten that when the going got tough, you guys went weak at the knees. I always knew my fellow liberal elites were self-involved, self-dramatizing and out of touch: I was in academia, remember? But the kind of mood swings I’ve had to put up with have been absolutely ridiculous.

The fact is, I’ve been your dream president; you’ve just spent four years coming up with reasons not to notice. I spend a gazillion dollars on stimulus, and the next day I wake up and it’s all, “Why didn’t he spend two gazillion dollars?” I pass universal health care – your goal for what, a thousand years or so? – and it takes all of five seconds before you start whining about how I didn’t cure cancer too. I suffer a few setbacks – that midterm business, a bad debate – and you start panicking about how some stuffed-suit corporate raider who stepped out of an Eisenhower-era time capsule is going to beat cool, multiracial, 21st-century ME.

Please. Please.

Next, a big, big shout-out to my opponents on the right – I really couldn’t have done it without you. Sure, you won a few battles here and there: Scott Brown versus Martha Coakley, cap-and-trade, and yes, again, that midterm business. But in the larger war, has any president ever been so lucky in his enemies?

Every time I needed to paint the American right as paranoid and out-of-touch, misogynistic and mindless, you were there for me. Thanks for making Sandra Fluke a martyr, Rush. Thanks for Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, Mr. Ailes. Thanks for everything, Donald Trump. Todd Akin – I love you, man.

And that parade of lightweights you put up against Romney in the primaries? A godsend. Bless you, Herman Cain. Never change, Michele Bachmann. Oh – and hope you enjoy being president of Purdue, Mitch Daniels.

Of course, my friends in right-wing media have been lucky in me as well. I kept your ratings stellar, your book sales booming, your page views sky-high. You got the income stream, I kept the power. So here’s to another flush four years for you.

Sure, second terms can be dicey propositions. But as long as I don’t get impeached or start a land war in Asia, I’m feeling pretty good about my legacy.

And oh, you centrist chin-strokers who kept saying I was no Clinton? You were absolutely right.

I’m the liberal Reagan. Deal with it.

Ross Douthat