- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2013

Forging into the latter half of his historic presidency, Barack Obama urged the nation at his second inauguration Monday to work together on a liberal agenda of America’s “limitless possibilities,” such as reversing climate change, advancing gay rights and strengthening the social safety net.

On a chilly and overcast Monday, Mr. Obama laid out the broad themes for his second term, in which he is winding down the war in Afghanistan and is renewing his push for programs to help the middle class. While the audience on the Mall was noticeably smaller than four years ago, his speech was a robust defense of his big-spending first term and a road map to his next set of priorities, on issues such as gun control and immigration reform.

“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together,” Mr. Obama said in a relatively brief inaugural address that lasted less than 20 minutes. “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.”

Mr. Obama began the day by commenting on his Twitter account while attending a church service that he was “honored and grateful that we have a chance to finish what we started.”

“Our work begins today. Let’s go. -bo,” he tweeted.

Pomp and pageantry

The ceremony at the Capitol was a flag-draped, celebrity-studded celebration of democracy with scant constitutional significance. Mr. Obama was officially sworn in by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Sunday, the date mandated by the Constitution, in a private ceremony at the White House. But as with President Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985, which also fell on a Sunday, the public event and related pageantries were saved for Monday.

The oath was administered again by Chief Justice Roberts, and this time Mr. Obama stumbled a bit as he pronounced “United States.” Four years ago, the chief justice got the words in the wrong sequence, so they repeated the oath a day later at the White House.

The crowd, estimated at up to 800,000, was less than half the size of Mr. Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, when about 1.8 million people jammed the Mall to witness the historic occasion of the nation’s first black president taking the oath of office.

But the enthusiasm of Mr. Obama’s supporters was fully on display Monday across the Mall and at the Capitol, with people sporting ubiquitous Obama jackets and shirts as they navigated heavy security that left most of the monumental capital closed to vehicles. Jumbo TV screens positioned along the Mall gave the throngs that stretched beyond the Washington Monument a view of the platform.

Agenda items

Perhaps the most surprising passage of Mr. Obama’s speech was his emphasis on the need to address climate change, an initiative that he ignored in his re-election campaign after failing in his first term to advance a “cap and trade” plan for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. The president used the example of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated portions of the East Coast in late October, to revive his call to combat 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,” Mr. 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. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.”

The president, faced with an imminent fight in Congress over cutting spending and limiting the nation’s borrowing, focused almost exclusively on his plans to fight for domestic social programs.

“We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future,” Mr. Obama said. “The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

Story Continues →