Obama to acknowledge divided Washington in Inaugural Address
January 19th, 2013
05:44 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama to acknowledge divided Washington in Inaugural Address

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama will lay out the values and vision for his second term in his Inaugural Address on Monday, setting up more detailed remarks on policy in his February 12 State of the Union.

A source with knowledge of the president's upcoming speech spoke to CNN about it on the condition of not being identified publicly.

He will speak about the division in Washington, the source said, but another official said Obama will not engage his political opponents by calling them out. He is expected to say that not all debates and political differences must be resolved, but that the country can act on issues where there is common ground.

One of the sources said Saturday that Obama is still working on his speech, which he will deliver on the West Front of the Capitol after ceremonially taking the oath of office Monday. The president will officially be sworn in at a brief ceremony on Sunday, as the Constitution stipulates the presidential term begins on January 20.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that he had "no preview of his remarks.”

"The president, I think, is very appreciative of the fact that the American people have given him this opportunity to deliver a second inaugural address," Carney continued. "He, as you know, takes very seriously speeches of this kind and is very engaged in the process. He's working on his remarks."

Second-term inaugural addresses have an atmosphere different from first-term remarks, which are powered by pomp, circumstance and potential in a new president. Some describe second-term inaugurals as a second wedding, and this year will stand in sharp contrast to 2009, when Obama was the first black man to take the presidential oath of office.

Past second-term addresses have not set a particularly high bar, and historian Douglas Brinkley said “not too many matter.”

“It’s about a unison speech,” Brinkley said on CNN. “Anybody who’s looking for a lot of new policy ideas, they're not going to get any. This is about poetry and oratory.”

Political journalist Ryan Lizza, a CNN contributor and Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, notes the intense partisan atmosphere dividing the capital.

"It was a very unusual thing because we had an election and then immediately we had some fierce partisan combat because of the fiscal cliff deadlines,” Lizza said. “Usually you have a period where everyone kind of goes home after the election and then they come back in January and it cools down.

“We didn't have that, so things are very hot right now in Washington and frankly the lesson of the December congressional session does not give one a whole lot of optimism going forward,” he said.

Last month, the two parties and sides of Pennsylvania Avenue were split over tax increases and spending cuts which they partially settled with a last-minute deal. But lawmakers pushed the automatic spending cuts back to March and did not tackle the nation’s debt ceiling or the soon-to-expire resolution funding the government.

So, challenges lie ahead for the president who said in his first inaugural address, “we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

His second inaugural may have to balance the message of unity with the realism he spoke of four years ago.

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real,” Obama said then. “They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.”

Obama’s first address was seen as speaking to the moment and the nearly two million who turned out the see the inauguration of the nation’s first black president. But reviewers said it was not as one which alone would be a highlight in history.

In 2009, he spoke amidst a financial crisis, saying, “everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.”

There is also an expectation that his remarks cater to certain key constituencies.

Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, referenced the high rate of unemployment among blacks compared with other demographic groups.

"We want to hear him say that he's committed to making sure that every single boat gets lifted, because it's clear that the tide has started to rise,” he said. “Some boats going up and some boats are still stuck right there."

Brinkley said he would be watching for Obama to mention important women, who often do not have significant roles in inaugural addresses.

“I've looked at a lot of these inaugural addresses and nobody ever seems to name-drop Susan B. Anthony or Eleanor Roosevelt and it might be time for that now, particularly because the president is getting some heat for not having enough women in the second term [Cabinet] and the women's vote contributed to his reelection vitally,” he said.

Some voters will be looking to hear what a second Obama term will mean for them, such as immigration reform or gun violence. The White House has advanced both as key issues leading into the new year, and Carney said on Tuesday that Obama “expects to move very quickly on immigration after the inauguration.”

Lizza said Obama should reach for an issue which is “reasonable and has a political sweet spot.”

"If you were optimistic about one issue (to get) solved this year on the president's agenda, I think immigration would be at the top of the list,” Lizza said. “Not easy but there's some potential for compromise."

While the themes are likely set with less than just two days remaining before the address, the exact words Obama will say may not be settled until just before he takes the stage.

- CNN’s Dan Lothian, Brianna Keilar and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report

Filed under: Inauguration • President Obama
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Randy, San Francisco

    Tea Party, anti-immigrant, social and fiscal conservative extremists beware of the future. Look at California. The California Republican Party has become irrelevant because it failed to reinvent itself as the population grew more diverse.

    January 19, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  2. MontanaTrace

    Obama is writing his own speech? No he's not. His handlers are.

    January 19, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  3. clarke

    Can't we just wait for the speech and then, if you must beat it to death.

    January 19, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  4. wildernessyes

    Good man, good President. Looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

    January 19, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  5. Getoverit

    Yes, he should acknowledge something he is responsible for.... for a change...

    January 19, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  6. Woman In California

    Everyone has something they want the president to mention without failing to realize he can't mention them all. Whatever he decides to address, someone will find a reason to take issue with it (probably even me).

    The most important issue for me this time around is the Obama's safety. I really hope they are taking their security seriously and that the SS takes every precaution necessary to prevent some of the sickos from acting out their viciousness against this president and this First Lady. If there are no incidents, that alone would make this occassion a great one. I look forward to hearing and seeing every minute of it.

    P.S. Thanks George for not attending, as you would only be a distration and the crowd would still not welcome you. For once, you made a smart choice.

    January 19, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  7. texasnotea

    Unfortunately the hard right is never going to accept him as President and will forever fight against any ideas or policies he introduces. Too bad for America because he is the only adult in the room at this time in our history.

    January 19, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  8. Carl

    People, let's see if Obama writes a speech that that makes it appear as if he is open to cutting spending – and then follows through by the end of March. Odds are he will write it, and will not do it like all the other promises he made to get elected.

    January 19, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  9. Gurgyl

    Sign on Gun-control law. Congress needs to pass this law. Five killed today. Shame. Second Amendment is bs.

    January 20, 2013 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  10. rs1201

    I wish him well because I wish my country well. However, I did not vote for him. Everything he has done so far has hurt my family and he proposes to do more damage. Obama is only concerned with the very poor and the middle class. He considers the high achievers out there as "evil" people who need to be made to "pay" for their success. Being highly educated and doing well professionally is considered "evil" by Obama and he will punish you for that success. Hopefully, he will not allowed to do too much more damage in the next 4 years.

    January 20, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  11. ppppuuuuuu

    Courage has to be found on all sides, to do the right thiing.

    January 20, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  12. Ratherbboating

    This prez will go down as the worst in history.

    January 20, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  13. empresstrudy

    How hard could copying The Sermon on the Mount be?

    January 20, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  14. ronvan

    WILL ANYTHING GET DONE? NO!! We have to remember that the President is only one person with one vote. YES, he can use his position to TRY and get things done, but until the republicans get off their "my way or the highway", NO to anything, attitude, things will remain the same! And, for me, it would probably be the same thing of we had a republican president. After YEARS or watching this continous "NO" bull, the only way that WE will change it is to VOTE ALL of these idiots out of office! And if the next crew does the same thing then WE continue to vote them out until they realize that THEY work for US!

    January 20, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  15. C.J.

    For all those nay sayers, I would like to point out a few things. the comments above about Republicans and saying "no", just figured I would point out, that out of the 180 nay votes for Sandy relief, only 49 were repub, so the other 130 were democrats. For the others about the rich Republicans, what about the rich Democrats? Check with the recent survey about who in Congress has more money then who, and realize Democrats are the richer fat cats.

    January 20, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  16. annieL

    I am praying for him and our country. God grant him courage and wisdom to lead a deeply divided nation and soften the hard hearts of the people who hate him personally and for what he stands for. Bring out our best in these four years ahead.

    January 20, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  17. Lloyd Roberts

    Bringing simplicity to a complex set of factors; Obama is smarter and wiser than his Republican counterparts who constantly underestimate him. Carry on old great Republican Party. History is replete with you shooting yourselves in your own feet. May I offer Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as examples? About the same as John McCain and Sarah Palin. You certainly could have won the White House this year with better choices and less insulting political "scratch your eyes out" comments from fellow Republicans. I love it this way. Stay just as stubborn and backward as always and soon you will be no more than a footnote in history.

    January 20, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  18. Marie MD

    @montana, he does write his own speeches with the help of his staff and they go back and forth.
    You and those like you in your party of hell no are the ones not allowing the country to go forward.
    The President has set the bar high for others to follow. After shrub #43 the presidency lost a little of its soul.

    January 20, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  19. petemg

    I do not trust this president who started this division so he could appear to be the great mender. He wants things his way or no way and that is why we need GOP and Democrat alike to keep this absent president responsible. Sure Obama may be smarter but he appears to be smarter on all that Hitler did and now Obama appears to be following. God is still in control.

    January 20, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  20. Russ in MD

    Randy, San Francisco
    I hope you're not expressing that California should be the model for the rest of the country. If nothing else, the U.S. should look a your state as what not to do if it wants to get any sort of the pride back that it use to have.

    January 20, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  21. vic , nashville ,tn

    2010 Tea party divide the nation
    2012 Tea party divide the GOP

    January 20, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. Mike1977

    RS101, you are saying that Obama calls high-achievers "evil." I'm calling you out – just where and when exactly did he call them evil?

    January 20, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  23. Lynda/Minnesota

    "A source with knowledge of the president's upcoming speech spoke to CNN about it on the condition of not being identified publicly."

    I don't expect much from the media, certainly I haven't expected much from CNN these past two years. The above comment is indicative of why my expectations have reached so low a point. America's media news pundits have become nothing more than rag news outlets.

    So, CNN. Is this the article in which we are encouraged to rip President Obama apart? Or, will there be more such articles in the days (and years) ahead?

    January 20, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  24. Mike1977

    petemg, you say Obama is following Hitler's lead? Please give some concrete examples.

    January 20, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  25. False Prophet

    CJ wrote: "For all those nay sayers, I would like to point out a few things. the comments above about Republicans and saying "no", just figured I would point out, that out of the 180 nay votes for Sandy relief, only 49 were repub, so the other 130 were democrats. For the others about the rich Republicans, what about the rich Democrats?"

    And that is a complete and utter lie. The vote was 241-180, with 179 Republicans and one Democrat opposing the measure. So yeah, keep making stuff up since reality seems to have a liberal bias.

    January 20, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
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