I anticipated that media coverage of Barack Obama's inauguration would be celebratory, fawning and even giddy, which is why I could only take it in small doses. But what I witnessed yesterday and today is something far more ominous than mere media bias, bubbling over after 8 years of simmering in an anti-Bush stew. There was an almost religious fervor to events, which the adulatory media coverage and commentary mirrored. It seemed like the birth of a personality cult, quiet frankly -- something anathema to American tradition and potentially dangerous to our political institutions.
I'm not writing this as an embittered Bush partisan: On the contrary, I generally found the man an embarrassment, and feel that his tenure was a disaster for those of us who still believe in the virtues of limited government. But I prefer to look on U.S. presidents -- whether black or white, Democrat or Republican -- as flawed human beings, whom the U.S. Constitution grants limited powers to screw things up, and not as gods, in whose hands the fate of the nation rests. And that quintessentially American skepticism toward our presidents -- even those history judges as "great" -- is in danger of being lost in Obama's case, washing away one bulwark against abuses of power and an assault on checks and balances.
Here the parallels between Obama and FDR, and Obama and Abraham Lincoln, might be most apt, since it was during the twin crises of The Great Depression and The Civil War that American presidents came closest to exercising, and seeking, dictatorial powers.