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Wednesday, January 28, 2009



I knew I could count on Brother Sullivan to get it:
What the critics misread in his Inaugural was its classical structure. He was not running any more. He was presiding. His job was not to rally vast crowds, but to set the scene for the broader constitutional tableau to come to life. Hence the obvious shock of some Republican Congressman at debating with a president who seemed interested in actual conversation, aas opposed to pure politics. Last Tuesday, there were none of the bold declarative predictions of the Second Bush Inaugural - and none of the slightly creepy Decider idolatry. Yes, Obama set some very clear directional goals, but the key difference is what came next: a window of invitation. The invitation is to the other co-equal branches of government to play their part; and for the citizenry to play its. This is an understanding of the president as one node in a constitutional order - not a near-dictator outside and superior to other branches of government. It is a return to traditional constitutional order. And it is rooted in a traditional, small-c conservative understanding of the presidency.

If Bush was about the presidency as power, Obama is about the presidency as authority. It's fascinating to watch this deep difference in understanding slowly but unmistakably realize itself in public actions. Somewhere the Founders are smiling. The system is correcting itself after one of the most unbalanced periods in American history. But it took the self-restraint of one man to do it.

And this is only after a week.

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