President Obama calls for unity in inaugural address
Similar to four years ago, President Obama called for unity in his inauguration speech Monday. But unlike four years ago, parts of the speech ventured into left-wing partisanship.
"He ticked through a pretty bold, liberal agenda," said Rachel Smolkin, deputy managing editor of Politico.
Among the issues Obama put forth a left-of-center vision on: climate change, gay rights, and immigration.
In a bit of a surprise move, he spent more than a minute of his nearly 20 minute speech on climate change.
"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations," Obama said. "Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms."
Getting any bill focused on climate change through Congress would likely prove very difficult for the President, especially with Republicans - many of whom are skeptical that human activity causes global warming - firmly in control of the House of Representatives.
"It's not clear how much he's going to actually be able to get done," Smolkin said. "This is not an issue he talked about very much during his first term."
Four years ago, Obama was officially opposed to gay marriage. But last year he reversed course and came out in support of it. On Monday, he became the first president to use the word "gay" in an inauguration speech.
"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law," he said. "For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
But on gay rights the president may also find it difficult to do much. That's because decisions on whether to allow gay marriage are made by individual states, not the federal government.
Smolkin says there's one big issue that Obama and Republicans may come to a grand compromise on: immigration reform.
"Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our work force rather than expelled from our country."
After Mitt Romney lost more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in November, Republicans now seem more willing to compromise on immigration reform than in the past.
In recent years conservatives have blocked anything that could be described as "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. But some of those lawmakers now say they're willing to negotiate to try to get a comprehensive reform bill passed.
But continuing battles over spending and cuts have the potential to push immigration reform aside.
And President Obama must also contend with the so-called "second-term curse" that has afflicted many of his predecessors. For instance, Ronald Reagan had the Iran-Contra affair. Bill Clinton was impeached. George W. Bush had controversy over the response to Hurricane Katrina.
"[Second terms] tend to range from the lackluster to the disastrous," Smolkin said. "President Obama is trying to focus and figure out how to do better than some of his predecessors."
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