- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle offered President Obama their best wishes, tempered with concern over the task ahead, as the former Democratic senator from Illinois was sworn in as the first black commander in chief.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, who lost the 2004 presidential election to President Bush, said Mr. Obama’s most immediate priority is saving and creating American jobs.

“Underscoring this historic day and all the hope we hold for the Obama administration is the reality that we must now begin the difficult task of putting people back to work and fixing our broken economy,” Mr. Kerry said. “Job number one is jobs, and it begins on day number one.”

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Republicans, meanwhile, offered praise for both Mr. Obama and America´s political system.

“For more than two centuries, the peaceful transfer of power between U.S. presidents has served as an inspiration to millions here and around the world,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “And on this Inauguration Day, we witness another inspiring event as America’s first African-American president takes the oath of office from the Capitol steps. “

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio said Republicans look forward to finding common ground with the president on solutions to rebuild the economy, strengthen American families and keep the country safe.

Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat and Budget Committee chairman, indicated along with other leading Democrats that Mr. Obama is the leader needed at this time. But they pointed to the state of the nation left by Mr. Bush, from a slumping economy to unstable conditions in Gaza and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Today, our nation celebrated a day of renewal,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “The inauguration of Barack Obama was not simply the end of one presidency and the beginning of another: So many of us hope that it also marked the close of an era of irresponsibility, reckless government and extreme partisanship.”

While each party’s goals - “peace and prosperity” - are the same, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, noted that their solutions will at times put them at odds. “It is during these times of difference that we must respect the American people and provide a genuine debate worthy of the challenges we face,” he said.

The nation’s third-largest political party, the Libertarians, offered congratulations to Mr. Obama. But Libertarian National Chairman William Redpath said he was skeptical that the new president and Congress will deliver on promises of “peace, prosperity and freedom.”

“I respectfully ask [Mr. Obama] to do one thing: not to cheapen the word ‘freedom,’ as so many of his predecessors have done,” Mr. Redpath said.

“If President Obama pursues policies of economic freedom, which is the historical fundamental reason of this world’s prosperity, and personal freedom, we will have a prosperous, harmonious and just society - and he would go down as a great president.”

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