Facing an anxious nation, President Barack Obama must reassure a divided land on Inauguration Day that the hope he talked about in 2008 is still alive today. Promising to help mend Washington’s political divide, Obama’s first term was riddled with bitter partisanship, especially over national health care that bears his moniker, Obamacare. When conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John J. Roberts announced June 28, 2012 that Obamacare was Constitutional, passing the High Court [5-4], the war with conservatives opposed to national health care hit a fever’s pitch. Without knowing why, former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his VP pick House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) miscalculated, making repealing Obamacare the centerpiece of their campaign. Neither Romney nor Ryan could explain why Obamacare was bad for America.
Obama’s second inaugural speech will touch on common campaign themes, especially reviving the sluggish U.S. economy. He’ll lay out an ambitious agenda for improving jobs by urging U.S. companies to bring manufacturing back to the States. He’ll talk about investing in education, keeping the government’s promise of funding college education. While he’d like to deal with immigration reform, Barack knows there’s only so much he can do with a divided Congress. Barack walks a tightrope dealing with the latest version of gun control. If Obama manages to get Congress—and the National Rifle Assn.—to embrace more complete background checks, he will have accomplished a lot. Expecting a ban on assault rifles or even limiting high capacity clips might be unrealistic. Barack promised the families of the Dec. 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre he’d do something.
However high Barack’s rhetoric soars Jan. 20, he must address his mandate to help middle-class families improve their standard-of-living. “I’ve got one mandate,” Barack said after the Nov. 6 Election. “I’ve got a mandate to help middle-class families and families that are working hard to get into the middle-class. That’s what the American people said: ‘Work really hard to help us,’” to grow the economy, add more jobs and to help assure the American Dream. His federal Making Homes Affordable refinance program didn’t save enough upside-down homeowners from short sales and foreclosures. As Barack works with the new Congress, he needs to address the punishing red tape involved in qualifying for today’s home loans. While things might have been too easy under former President George W. Bush, they’ve gone too far in the opposite direction under Obama.
Settling the so-called “fiscal cliff” Jan. 1 with the last-ditch efforts of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kt.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) gave Barack a brief window to deal with the next hurdle of the “debt ceiling.” While House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Vir.) postponed Jan. 18 the debt ceiling fight for three months threatening, if not resolved, another credit downgrade. Avoiding a credit downgrade is essential to Barack’s economic agenda. When he took office it 2008, the nation’s biggest banks had run out of cash in what’s described as the worst recession since the Great Depression. During his first four years, Barack points to a growing stock market, recovering real estate market and expanded jobs market, all contributing to lower federal budget deficits and improving economy.
When Barack was sworn-in four years ago, he promised to end the Afghan and Iraq Wars. On Dec. 31, 2011, Obama ended the Iraq War, much to disgruntled reactions of Bush dead-enders, especially former Vice President Dick Cheney. Looking ahead, Obama’s moving swiftly to end the 12-year-old Afghan War in 2014, if not sooner. “He came into office when the American Dream was at its most maximum peril,” said former press secretary Robert Gibbs, recalling the collapsing jobs and stock market. “Fixing that is likely to be a journey that will be the charge of the next several presidents. But it’s his job to build a foundation” for future generations. Barack hopes his Obamacare legislation that kicks off in 2014 fuels the largest expansion of the health care industry in the nation’s history, adding thousands, if not millions, of new jobs. Voters agreed on Nov. 6 that Obama was heading in the right direction.
Expect Obama’s speech to explain his second term with a new slogan, “You can make it if you try.” “Do we believe in an America that says some folks are more American than others or more worthy than others or more valued than others” asked Obama. “Or do we believe in an America where the Declaration [of Independence] means what it says: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . that all people are created equal,’” said Obama, emphasizing the dual Martin Luther King Day and Inauguration Day themes. Fighting for his legacy, Obama has battled Republicans on Capitol Hill over the “fiscal cliff” and now “debt ceiling” to preserve the nation’s biggest entitlement programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. “His progressive legacy is continuing civil rights movements to the very last groups that have been marginalized,” said Rice University historian David Brinkley.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.