Delivering his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama pulled no punches outlining a bold liberal agenda designed to reinforce the nation’s social safety net while assuring that the nation concludes military commitments and remain at peace. Obama’s plan to improve education, work on climate change and position the nation for the 21st century is all contingent on concluding all foreign wars. While Russia’s Duma prepares to ban homosexuality, Obama offered to improve civil rights of gay citizens. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” said Barack Speaking on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Barack quoted from the Declaration of Independence, marking progress from slavery through today’s civil rights
His comments about gays were intended for a divided Supreme Court taking up the gay marriage issue in the current court session. Barack alluded to gun violence by drawing attention to the rights to protect all children from the kinds of abuse and benign neglect all too common in today’s society. “All our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown,” deserve hope, security and opportunity said the president. While Barack knows he faces a divided Congress, he pleaded for more bipartisanship, the holy grail of today’s politics. “My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it—so long as we seize it together,” Obama said, appealing, as he did when he keynoted at the Democratic National Convention in Boston July 27, 2004 for then nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), to all Americans to end their divisions.
On MLK Day, Obama asked for a more generous America, one that recognizes the needs of the downtrodden, whether for race, poverty or any other circumstance. “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chances to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own,” Barack said to a tearful, yet joyous, audience. His battle with the GOP over the so-called “fiscal cliff” was all about preserving the social safety net for struggling Americans, especially protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Every time there’s any question about budget deficits the first thing the GOP targets is the social safety net. Barack served notice on the West steps of the Capitol that while he’s president he intends to keep the government’s promise to the elderly, disabled and poor.
Alluding to a new time of peace, Barack signaled that he’s not inclined to spend hard-earned tax dollars on foreign wars. While prodded to take a stand on the Iranian nuclear program, Obama—and his Defense Secretary designate former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) won’t be too trigger happy after nearly 13 years of foreign wars, costing the U.S. Treasury nearly $2 trillion. Far worse are the 6,662 deaths from the Afghan and Iraq Wars, over double the losses from Sept. 11 and every other terrorist attack attributed to Osama bin Laden. Before the country jumps into another foreign war, the White House would have to find compelling national security reasons. Even with another Sept. 11, Obama and Hagel would be reluctant to start another foreign war that would include a nation-building project like the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama made it clear that domestic nation-building is his top priority.
Republicans, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Mitt Romney’s VP pick House Budget Director Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are ready to do battle with the White House over the “debt ceiling.” Whatever semblance of bipartisanship at the inauguration, Obama isn’t naïve about the prospects for GOP deal-making. Barack’s best argument to the GOP about reducing the so-called “sequester” or mandatory spending cuts involves a robust economy. As the economy grows and adds jobs, federal budget deficits will shrink, giving Barack the best excuse to continue spending on the social safety net. While the GOP rails against Barack’s liberal agenda, they’ll have a tough sell slashing the federal budget, including tossing federal workers into unemployment, if federal deficits continue to shrink. Barack seeks to pick up on the “Great Society,” once touted during the days of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Barack’s second inaugural address lacked energy and, at times, seemed out-of-sync. While he picked up on common stump speeches, he didn’t revive the soaring rhetoric that made him a presidential frontrunner in 2004, as a virtually unknown Illinois state senator running for U.S. Senate. If nothing else, the second inaugural reminded voters why the nation’s first African American president rocks with a large sector of the population, certainly enough to win a second term. While it doesn’t take a psychic to predict what lies ahead, Obama needs to address the GOP’s concerns about profligate government spending before launching any new programs. Before Barack signs on to the Kyoto Protocol and costs the economy three percent of the nation’s total Gross Domestic Product, he’d better see the economy in full-on recovery mode. All-in-all, Barack was true to his liberal principles.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in domestic and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.