Emboldened Obama Urges End to Political Feuding

President Vows To Lead 'Never-Ending' Journey in New Term

getty images

By Reuters

Published January 21, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

President Barack Obama urged Americans on Monday to reject political “absolutism” and partisan rancor, as he kicked off his second term with an impassioned call for collective action and estabished a more assertive tone for the challenges he faces over the next four years.

Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol was filled with traditional pomp and pageantry, but it was a scaled-back inauguration compared to the historic start of his presidency in 2009 when he swept into office on a mantle of hope and change as America’s first black president

Despite expectations tempered by lingering economic weakness and a divided Washington, Obama delivered a confident listing of his second-term plans for the battles he intends to fight, including over climate change, immigration reform and gay rights.

“We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” Obama said as he stood in the wintry cold atop a giant makeshift platform on the Capitol steps overlooking the National Mall. “We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial.”

Looking out on a sea of flags, Obama spoke to a crowd of up to 700,000 people - less than half the record 1.8 million who assembled four years ago.

Obama, speaking in more specific terms than expected, promised “hard choices” to reduce the federal deficit and called for a revamping of the tax code and a remaking of government.

The Democrat arrived at his second inauguration on solid footing, with his poll numbers up, Republicans on the defensive and his first-term record boasting accomplishments such as a U.S. healthcare overhaul, ending the war in Iraq and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

But fights are looming over budgets, gun control and immigration, with Republicans ready to oppose him at almost every turn and Obama still seemingly at a loss over how to engage them in deal-making.

SECOND TIME TAKING OATH

When Obama raised his right hand and was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, it was his second time taking the oath in 24 hours - but this time with tens of millions of people watching on television.

The president beamed as chants of “Obama, Obama!” rang out from the crowd.

Obama had a formal swearing-in on Sunday at the White House because of a constitutional requirement that the president take the oath on Jan. 20. Rather than stage the full inauguration on a Sunday, the main public events were put off until Monday.

It was another milestone of political passage for Obama, the Hawaiian-born son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas. An electrifying speech at the 2004 Democratic convention as a little-known Illinois state legislator lifted him to the national stage, putting him on a rapid trajectory to the U.S. Senate and a few years later the White House.

Obama, 51, his hair visibly grayed over the past four years, sought to reassure Americans at the mid-point of his presidency and encourage them to help him take care of unfinished business.

“Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action,” he said.

Obama, who won a second term by defeating Republican Mitt Romney after a bitter campaign, opened round two facing many of the same problems that dogged his first term: persistently high unemployment, crushing government debt and a deep partisan divide. The war in Afghanistan, which Obama is winding down, has dragged on for over a decade.

He won an end-of-year fiscal battle against Republicans, whose poll numbers have continued to sag, and appears to have gotten them to back down, at least temporarily, from resisting an increase in the national debt ceiling.

And Obama faces a less-dire outlook than he did when he took office in 2009 at the height of a deep recession and world economic crisis. The economy is growing again, though slowly.

His call for political compromise contrasted with the more combative approach he has taken with Republicans on a range of volatile issues since winning re-election in November.

While there was no sign that Obama was returning to the more accommodating style that marked much of his first term, it appeared to be a signal to Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, that he is still open to finding common ground.

Nevertheless, Obama’s appeals for bipartisan cooperation will remind many Americans of his own failure to meet a key promise when he came to power - - to act as a transformational leader who would fix a dysfunctional Washington.

Even though his second inauguration was more subdued than the first, the crowds that turned out on the National Mall made up for their lesser numbers with an abundance of enthusiasm.

“We’re a bit surprised by how few people are out here this morning. But that’s fine - makes the crowds more manageable. The weather is delightful and we’re happy to be here,” said Kathy Reid, 61, from Waco, Texas.

Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in fell on the same day as the national holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. - and the president embraced the symbolism.

He took the oath with his hand on two Bibles - one from President Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery, and the other from King. Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights figure Medgar Evers, was given the honor of delivering the invocation at the ceremony.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.