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Obama agenda: Conservative react.

National Review’s Rich Lowry: “For the Left, this is what winning looks like.” He calls the speech “a paean to collectivism, swaddled in the rhetoric of individual liberty and of fidelity to the Founding.” Obama, he says, “hopes to reorient the American mainstream and locate conservatives outside it. He wants to take the Founders from the Right and baptize the unreconstructed entitlement state and the progressive agenda in the American creed.”

More: “All in all, it was a brazen performance, as audacious in intent as it was banal in its expression. He used the Founders’ authority to advance an expansive conception of American government that would have been unrecognizable to them. Amid the pomp and the circumstances, Republicans should have heard a direct challenge. The president did them, and everyone else, the favor of enunciating the battle lines and the stakes of the fights to come.”

Bill Kristol focuses on Obama’s foreign policy and takes a hawkish view: “Our forebears were only able to "win the peace" because they first crushed out enemies in war. But under President Obama we're not committed to winning our wars. We're committed to ending them. Does Obama really think we're going to win the peace after not winning the war?”

Kristol called the speech “unmemorable,” yet David Brooks takes a completely different view: “The best Inaugural Addresses make an argument for something. President Obama’s second one, which surely has to rank among the best of the past half-century, makes an argument for a pragmatic and patriotic progressivism.”

More: “During his first term, Obama was inhibited by his desire to be postpartisan, by the need to not offend the Republicans with whom he was negotiating. Now he is liberated. Now he has picked a team and put his liberalism on full display. He argued for it in a way that was unapologetic. Those who agree, those who disagree and those of us who partly agree now have to raise our game. We have to engage his core narrative and his core arguments for a collective turn.”

But Brooks thinks “Obama misunderstands this moment. The Progressive Era, New Deal and Great Society laws were enacted when America was still a young and growing nation. They were enacted in a nation that was vibrant, raw, underinstitutionalized and needed taming. We are no longer that nation.”

Ramesh Ponnuru: “The world will little note nor long remember anything President Barack Obama said in his second inaugural address; still less will it remember any of the gushing encomiums his admirers in the press reliably produce, comparing him variously to Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and Jesus.” He concludes: “Yes he can ... overcome strawmen.”

Stephen Hayes calls it “an aggressive, unapologetic defense of activist government and to call for a new spirit of unity even as he seeks to move the country even further left.” He adds: “The United States is now $16.4 trillion in debt. We’ve accumulated more than a third of that total since Obama’s first inaugural four years ago, an additional $20,000-plus per citizen during the Obama presidency. Even using White House projections, we’ll have more than $21 trillion by the time his second term ends. Obama doesn’t care. … The lack of attention to the debt from Obama was not an oversight. It’s simply not a priority.”

And: “When historians look back at Obama’s second inaugural, they will reread an impassioned defense of activist government and a plea for more of it. But I suspect they will also look at this address as both a reminder of Obama’s failure to address the debt in his first term and a harbinger of his unwillingness to pay for the entitlement state in his second.”