Every day I go to work, I see a commemorative issue of Newsweek magazine celebrating the inauguration of President Obama. Ignoring for the moment that it’s been two months since the inauguration, what bothers me about the cover is the quote from the President’s speech: “We are ready to lead once more.”
I’m pretty sure he’s not talking about the Democrat Party. Certainly, since taking control of Congress in ’06, they had failed to show any sort of leadership, allowing Bush to continue doing pretty much anything he wanted. There was lots of bickering and complaining about the administration’s policies, but little was done to force a change of those policies. The Democrats took control and then said, “Wait till the presidential election. We’ll start doing stuff then.”
But that’s not what the President was talking about. No, in his speech, he was addressing the entire nation, and as such, he was saying that America is ready to lead again. Here’s the problem with that statement: when, since the end of the Cold War, has the United States not led the world?
We are the last surviving super power. We are the richest and most powerful country in the world. We have no choice but to lead. We couldn’t hand the reigns over to another country, even if we wanted to.
You’re welcome to disagree with the direction we’ve been going over the last eight years, the last sixteen years, the last thirty. You’ll be hard pressed to convince me that we were not leading in all that time, though.
There are areas, certainly, where the U.S. lags behind, where we could do better, but overall, we still lead. What America does, the rest of the world responds to. What America accepts or rejects affects the rest of the world’s perceptions. The world does not act without first considering America’s current position, and what our reaction might be.
The statement “We are ready to lead once more” is nothing more than empty rhetoric and pandering to the anti-Bush crowd. At best, it is a sound bite representing politics as usual. At worst, it represents a complete failure to recognize America’s place in the world. Either way, I’m tired of walking past it every day.