Happy Inauguration Day. The symbolism is not lost this is Martin Luther King Day, too. The President pulls the images together, taking his symbolic swearing in (the official one was yesterday) using Bibles of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. He sees ties to Lincoln, leading the nation at a time of moral changes and heavy opposition; Lincoln ending slavery and the divisions it created. Obama believes he is leading us through capitalism (which he sees as self-serving and harmful to unity) and American Exceptionalism that puts the United States in a unique category among nations. His connection to King is the fulfillment of King's ideals, that all men should live in equality. As every American can be President, every President accepts the challenge of criticism, and questioning policies, without responding that race is the basis for the critique, and not differences in values, ideas, and beliefs. It is a time for true equality.
One tradition of Inauguration Day is official nominations of new Cabinet members, to mark the transition to the next term. Obama has nominated Jack Lew for Secretary of the Treasury, John Kerry for Secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel, former senator from Nebraska, as Secretary of Defense. While most nominees are traditionally approved, each brings questions to be resolved.
Jack Lew. As the President's budget director, he gave Congress a budget he claimed "would not add to the debt of the United States." Our national debt is 50% higher than four years ago. In subsequent negotiations over spending, debt ceilings, and the fiscal cliff, Lew spearheaded the President's agenda of spending our way out of debt, which is contradictory. His refusal to entertain suggestions from Republicans has laid a rough foundation for his confirmation.
John Kerry. Kerry has established himself politically. His service to the Senate may make his confirmation the easiest. Much of his baggage was exposed in his campaign for the Presidency in 2004, and is tied up in his choice, after returning from Vietnam, to become an outspoken voice of protest and criticism of the military and the country. In the role of Secretary of State, will he continue the practice of apology and self-blame the President began in his first term? In the second term, the department starts off facing issues raised by the incident at Benghazi and testimony from out-going Secretary Clinton. There will also be a challenge to maintain the image that, as the President said in his inaugural speech, "the decade of war has ended" even as North Africa, Syria, and Iran seem to be growing more confrontational.
Chuck Hagel. A former Republican senator, from Nebraska, and another Vietnam veteran who served with distinction, Hagel should be the easiest confirmation, but may be the most difficult. As a Senator, he has a record that many on both sides have called into question. He met this past week with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to allay fears over his opinions in regard to Iran, and Israel's sovereignty. In the past, he has made disparaging comments about a gay ambassador-nominee. He has supported participation in Global initiatives, like the Global-Poverty Act, adding a tax to US citizens to contribute to humanitarian aid. He supports nuclear reduction, so he is already on board with plans the President has to accommodate the Russians "after I am elected".
A new term has begun. The agenda, the unfettered start of a lame duck President to create his mark on American history. These are the people who represent the direction he intends to take us in these final 1461 days to the Obama era. Much has been commented on that the incoming appointees are the traditional, white male politicians that Obama has spurned in his campaigns. Perhaps it is a suggestion that we have fewer surprises and less ideology ahead, and more attention to the traditional role of government. We can only hope, and dream.