Nobody wants rain on Inauguration Day. For the partisans among us — and that includes approximately half of us, give or take a few hundred thousand — it's a day for celebration of the nation and its history, the continuity of its institutions, and the promise of the future.
For the celebrating pols, it's a day to celebrate not having to go home and get a job, and to mark the promise of another four years at the public trough.
For Barack Obama, it's a celebration of his agenda, both the one seen and the other unseen. We'll see soon enough what's in the unseen, and how much he can get through a divided House and a soft and compliant Senate.
The big fight is one he'll lose if the Republicans in Congress remember why they're in Washington and who sent them here. He should win the other big fight, over whether to confirm Mr. Obama's choice to be the secretary of defense. Presidents nearly always get the assistants they want.
Imitation messiahs can't imagine why anyone should think they need advice and counsel from mere mortals, but Mr. Obama got a little good advice over the weekend from Bill Clinton. It's not likely this White House will take it, but somebody in the West Wing should write it down and post it next to James Carville's famous message to "Stupid" that elections are about the economy.
The new message from ol' Bubba, given in a speech to a group of important party bag men, is that the Democrats must be careful how they campaign against the Second Amendment and against Americans and their guns. The elites are horrified by the notion that anyone should even want to own a gun. That's their problem.
The unarmed elites, Bubba said, live in a different world from the world where owning a gun is important. "I know because I come from this world."
Guns have an emotional appeal in many rural states, but the idea that only hicks, yokels and rednecks rise to this emotional appeal is wrong, and betrays ignorance to the point of foolishness. Bubba walks with kings (when princesses are unavailable) but living amongst the yankees and city slickers has not diminished the remembrance of Arkansas things past. The polls that show public support for the Obama gun-control campaign can be misleading.
"All these polls that you see saying the public is for us on all these issues — they are meaningless if they're not voting issues."
The 23 executive orders the president issued last week to "curb" gun violence are, as Bubba noted, mostly feel-good blah blah, though Bubba wouldn't say it quite that way. No matter how eloquent the president's gun-control appeals to the public may be, the only real restrictions on gun ownership must go through Congress. The feel-good blah-blah won't be effective there because Congress is largely immune to feel-good blah-blah. Moonshiners usually know better than to drink their own stuff.
Mr. Obama is trying to sell some of his own moonshine, distilled in the White House basement from corn grown in Michelle's backyard garden, to get Chuck Hagel through the Senate. He will need Mr. Hagel and his heroic war record as cover for the evisceration of the U.S. military he must get through Congress. Mr. Hagel says the Defense Department is "bloated" and the Pentagon should be "pared down."
Mackubin Thomas Owens, editor of Orbis, a journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, observes in The Weekly Standard magazine that much of the opposition to Mr. Hagel focuses on his hostility to Israel and his indifference to nuclear arms for the mullahs in Iran, but "as serious as these issues are, [Mr.] Hagel's confirmation ought also to focus on his approach to our defense needs."
He and others liken putting Hagel in charge of the Pentagon to President Harry S Truman's nomination of Louis Johnson as defense secretary in 1948. He was recognized by friend and foe as a hack, appointed to implement the cuts to free the money for an expansion of the welfare state. Mr. Truman, who soon learned better, imagined that since America had the atomic bomb, it no longer needed much else. Soon America didn't have much else. Omar Bradley, a hero of World War II and a postwar chairman the Joint Chiefs, said "the Army of 1948 couldn't fight its way out of a paper bag."
We haven't had an army like that since. Not yet.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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