Obama inaugural speech defends liberal goals
AP and ReutersWASHINGTON -- Barack Obama launched his second term as U.S. president Monday by confronting conservative opponents in Congress, declaring in an inaugural address before nearly a million spectators that he will tackle climate change, protect America's social safety net and pursue other decidedly liberal goals.
January 23, 2013, 4:08 pm TWN
The president — often criticized by supporters for being too quick to compromise in his first term only to get little in return from Republicans — spoke with fire for the center-left political agenda that first carried him into the White House four years ago.
As he spoke, the president beamed as chants of “Obama, Obama!” rang out from the crowd.
He defended spending on social programs for the poor, the ailing and the elderly. He promoted immigration reform and gay marriage. And he unexpectedly gave one of his most impassioned calls for action on climate change, an issue that has not been at the forefront of the political debate.
Obama tried to make clear that he will not stand for the partisan fighting that often marked his first term, thwarting his efforts to pass aggressive plans for jobs creation and deficit reduction. Without mentioning Republicans or Democrats, he demanded moderation.
“We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” Obama said, “We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only partial.”
Defending Social Programs
Obama's decisive win in November and Republican setbacks in Congress chastened the opposition a bit, but Republicans still adamantly oppose the president's call for increased taxes on the wealthy and investing more on infrastructure and education.
The Republican opposition wants to target spending cuts on the federal Medicare health care program for elderly Americans and other programs to slow the rise in a $16.4 trillion national debt.
Obama defended such programs with an overt jab at the Republican presidential candidate he defeated, Mitt Romney, who during the campaign criticized the 47 percent of American voters “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims.” Romney's running, Congressman Paul Ryan, declared during the campaign that the U.S. was a welfare state creating more “takers” than “makers.”
Programs like Medicare, Obama said, “do not make us a nation of takers; They free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
“Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” Obama said outside the Capitol.
His demand for action on climate change also flipped around an accusation that some Republicans leveled at him during the campaign: That his administration was weakening the country by trying to lead the world “from behind.”
“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it,” Obama said. “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise.”
He offered an impatient warning for global warming doubters. “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,” he said.
Obama also cited a need for immigration reform and gun-control legislation. Both efforts will bring bitter partisan wrangling, especially the gun debate in the raw aftermath of last month's Connecticut school shooting that left 20 young children and six educators dead.