News Column

Truce Ends: Repubs Blast Obama on Speech

Jan. 22, 2013
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Republicans criticized US President Barack Obama Tuesday for beginning his second term in office with an overtly partisan speech aimed at pushing through a liberal agenda and sidelining their centre-right party.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, noted the inauguration should be "a time for new beginnings, a chance to learn from the mistakes and missed opportunities of the past as we re- engage in some vitally important debates about our future."

"I understand that the passions of an election can sometimes overshadow the business of governing. But the presidential campaign is now behind us," he said on the floor of the Senate.

"It's my hope that the president will finally be willing to do what Republicans have been asking him to do since his first inauguration four years ago: and that's to work with us on identifying durable solutions to problems that we can only solve together - to put aside those things we know we can't agree on and focus on what we can."

Obama made clear as he marked the start of his second term on Monday that he was in no mood for compromise and called for a strong liberal agenda.

"Decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay," he said. "We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate

Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the number three Republican in the lower House of Represenatives, said in a television interview that he had hoped Obama would take a more bipartisan tone.

"I was hoping that we would have a second term different than the first term," he said on broadcaster CBS. "We have big problems in America. And normally in divided government we achieve big things."

White House spokesman Jay Carney rejected characterizations of the speech as pushing a liberal or progressive agenda.

"I would say that it was forceful. I would say that it was confident, and it was confident not in the sense of self- confidence, but confident about the potential that America has at this moment, if we seize the moment and work together.

"I hardly think that pursuit of equal rights, pursuit of comprehensive immigration reform, pursuit of sensible policies that deal with climate change and enhance our energy independence, are ideological," Carney said.

"And the only 'ism' that was a part of that speech was his rejection of absolutism," he said. "But you can be sure it was confident and it was forceful because he believes we have to act; we have to come together and act. We have responsibilities that we need to act on."

Obama spent the morning after his formal inauguration ceremonies in prayer at the Washington National Cathedral in an interfaith service.

Obama, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, sat in the front row of the Episcopal cathedral Tuesday as African American gospel choirs and the cathedral choir sang hymns.

Prayers were offered "for our President Barack and our Vice President Joseph" with a nod to Obama's agenda outlined in his inaugural speech Monday of advancing human rights and caring for the environment.

The service with a sermon by a United Methodist pastor included prayers by Christian leaders, including Washington's Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, along with Muslim and Jewish leaders.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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