Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States has been sworn in for a second term and delivered his final inaugural address.
As a speech it was effective and poetic for the audience. As with most inaugurals, it lacked any lines that will live throughout the ages.
More importantly, it gives us a glimpse into the true goals left for a President whose time in office will definitely end in 4 years.
From this day, the clock rapidly begins to tick for President Obama. The next three to six months will provide the best chance of achieving any significant reforms. Beyond that, primary campaigns for 2014 will begin and once the full election cycle begins in earnest in the summer of 2014, most legislation will slow to a grinding crawl.
After 2014, who knows what the Congress will look like, but one thing is certain: The race for president in 2016 begins and the current occupant suddenly gets relegated to lame-duck status, only able to push on one or two final issues.
President Obama's speech hinted at what is left on his agenda. Immigration reform is almost a guarantee. Democrats can win generations of new voters with a push for a generous admission policy and amnesty for those already in the country illegally. Republicans can't afford to be seen bashing immigrant groups if they hope to maintain a majority in Congress and win in 2016.
Next, fiscal reform. The President will try to cement his legacy by remaking the tax code of the country and reworking it's spending priorities. Congressional Republicans will push back hard against his "Robin Hood" tax concepts and emphasis on using government spending for entitlements over investments. Both Speaker John Boehner and the President have a chance to put their signatures on a critical pieces of fiscal policy that will shape the nation's economy for a generation. This debate will likely define their success or failure as public officials.
The President will take the gun control legislation as far as he can because he personally believes in it. If the Supreme Court does not do it, he will make a serious attempt to propose and pass a marriage equality bill.
Many believe he will push for climate change/green legislation. I doubt it, his political capital will be spent by the time he gets to that issue and it is not on the front of the mind of Americans.
There is no reason to believe any significant education reform will even be proposed let along passed.
Outside forces and events will derail some of the President's goals and his reaction to them will seal his image in the eyes of the nation.
As with any President, he has improved in his ability to perform his duties as he has had gained experience and practice. He will likely grow into the job even more and now that he will be an elder statesman on the global stage, don't be surprised if he takes more aggressive action on the global stage. Toward the end of his final term, with domestic policy tied up in 2016 presidential politics, he may even make a bold move on the international stage whether it's a shot at an Isreali/Palestinian peace deal, pushing for a new Kyoto Treaty on climate change or initiating a global poverty elimination initiative. Who knows what it will be, but he will not just go quietly into retirement without a global tour.
Republicans have many cards to play and will have to pick their battles carefully. With a strong majority in the House and a robust Senate minority, they will be active in their agenda. I expect to see the GOP give the President some of his agenda, but fight him like rabid dogs on issues related to taxation, spending reform, entitlement reform, debt reduction and economic policy. They will also grow more hawkish in their foreign policy objectives.
With the end of tonight's inaugural parties, the nations work begins again in the capital. The fights will be as fierce as ever and the republic's traditions will carry on.
For the sake of the country, let's hope our elected leaders realize their personal potential and act on behalf of the nation's best interests.
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