Conservatives lay low as Obama takes oath
January 21st, 2013
09:08 PM ET
2 years ago

Conservatives lay low as Obama takes oath

(CNN) - When lawmakers of both parties raised their glasses in toast of President Barack Obama at a Capitol Hill luncheon Monday, House Speaker John Boehner remarked that the room, with its poor acoustics, had been the House chamber many decades earlier - "at a time when our leaders weren't hearing each other all that well to begin with."

"But here, it's a century-and-a-half and many architectural improvements later, and we gather in the old hall to better hear one another and to renew the appeal to better angels," Boehner said. "We do so amid the rituals and symbols of unity, none more important than our flag," he continued, giving Obama and Vice President Joe Biden the flags which had earlier in the day flown over the Capitol.

His presentation as the nation's top lawmaker held more significance than a convergence of the two government branches: it was about two parties which waged bitter campaigns for federal office coming together to codify the administration.

But Republicans largely laid low on Monday, as Obama's second term opened with ceremony on the National Mall and an address in which he laid out the basics of an agenda. His biographer, David Maraniss, described the speech as one where "I could feel his heart beating."

"What he did is he took the Founding Fathers' riffs and language, Martin Luther King's language, so of King, and melded it into his own and put it into a sort of statement of action - what he wants to do in the next four years," Maraniss said on CNN.

Obama identified specific objectives, saying, "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law" and that his administration "will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

The late Monday banner of the Drudge Report said it all for conservatives: "1,461 More Days."

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity described Obama's address as "a harshly ideological, aggressively partisan speech more appropriate for the campaign trail than for the solemn occasion of his inaugural ceremony. His address read like a liberal laundry list with global warming at the top. Americans have rejected environmental extremism in the past and they will again."

There were no Republican former presidents in attendance, as George H.W. Bush – recently released from the hospital – stayed home, as did his son, George W. Bush, who did not provide a reason but offered Obama "best wishes and prayers on this historic day" in a statement.

Obama's 2012 White House challenger, Mitt Romney, was off of the radar, while his 2008 challenger, Sen. John McCain, was in the audience. Obama's 2008 primary rival, Hillary Clinton, has served the past four years in his administration and attended the ceremony with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Some Republican lawmakers stayed away, too, and a few who did attend the festivities expressed cautious optimism that bipartisanship might prevail.

But Rep. Peter King of New York, wasn't convinced Obama was reciprocating any bi-partisan spirit. "I guess he wants to get a little revenge," King said on CNN.

"I think he should not be as – I don't know if arrogant is the right word. He won the election. I give him credit for that, he won it, he won it fair and square, no doubt about that," he said. "But I think there's been a tone of almost like an imperious tone the last few times."

King's skepticism that even on this day steeped in tradition bi-partisanship could prevail may be onto something. Even lawmakers' own efforts to bring themselves together this season on deficit reform - by setting the countdown clock for deep, unfavorable spending cuts - failed, as their last-minute agreement to diffuse the fiscal cliff simply pushed back the deadline for averting the steep spending cuts.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell noted the contrast between legislating and ceremony, congratulating Obama in a statement which said, "Every four years on Inauguration Day, America shows the world that our major political parties can disagree with civility and mutual respect."

"The President's second term represents a fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day; particularly, the transcendent challenge of unsustainable federal spending and debt. Republicans are eager to work with the President on achieving this common goal, and we firmly believe that divided government provides the perfect opportunity to do so," he said.

Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican conference, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that the president should "hit the reset button with Republicans and really look for solutions to the major problems, and divided government is the perfect time do it."

Others, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, offered praise for Obama in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash.

"I think that the president did a fine job, certainly laying out what he would like to see happen as far as the future of the country. You know, there are plenty of areas of disagreement. But there also some things fundamentally we agree on," he said, such as that "this country is one of opportunity."

"Hopefully, we can bridge those differences," Cantor said, adding Obama had offered an olive branch when he "went to every table and shook every hand" at the Capitol Hill luncheon.

Obama also hosted legislative leaders from both parties for a traditional tea and coffee at the White House Monday morning before the ceremony.

Sen. John Thune called that informal morning socializing "a really important first step forward."

"Inaugurals are always times of new beginnings, fresh starts, if you will, and I hope this presents that opportunity for us. The president, if he will reach out to Republicans on Capitol Hill, and to Democrats, for that matter, I think we can do some good things together," the South Dakotan said.

"Lord knows we've got challenges ahead of us that will require presidential leadership," he said.

Others, such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, noted a "historic" nature of Obama's presidency. "Hopeful we'll find common ground to address our many challenges -we owe it to the next generation," she wrote in a tweet.

But will that spirit of bipartisanship be gone tomorrow, as lawmakers face the debt ceiling and other matters which have, until today, divided them?

Cantor, again, sounded optimistic: "We hope that this lasts."


Filed under: Inauguration • John Boehner • President Obama
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Norma Vessels

    Some many of the Republican leaders keep saying that our President should reach out to them, should hold out the white flag, if you will. I beg to differ. It's the Republicans who need to take a step forward to the President. President Obama, I'm sure, is really tired of putting out his hand to the Republican leaders, only to have it slapped down. No, you Republicans need to get this straight .. you are not the boss .. you are not in control .. you are not the ones to decide
    what will and will not happen, though you've certainly tried hard enough. We, the people have let you know with the election, that we do not want your ideas of messing up our Social Security, our Medicare and Medicaid, and our programs of help for the unfortunate. Work with our President, whom we elected, and work with the Democrats, who are with us .. or step out of the way.

    January 21, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  2. Huh?

    What Norma Vessels said. I've got nothing. She said it all.

    January 21, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  3. The REAL TRUTH...

    "Americans have rejected environmental extremism in the past and they will again."
    True, very true. They have also rejected extremism in many other forms too. It's time to reject the extremism that has been the Grand Obstructionist Party for the last 4 yrs. Get rid of the TP's and replace them with something that resembles a REAL Conservative. Elect some folks who are intelligent enough to KNOW that politics is give-and-take, it's compromise and not the my-way-or-the-highway approach we have become used to seeing from the GOP.
    They should be going to Obama with a white flag... if not.... watch out in 2014. We'll have a Dem Congress.

    January 21, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  4. american

    I'm disappointed that republicans didn't show up. George W. Really? You couldn't be there? What a baby. As far as the rest of them, all I see are sour grapes. Get over it and move forward. Now is the time for you to save face. If you keep acting like kids having a tantrum, it will bite you in 2016. People are paying close attention.

    January 21, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  5. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It seems that many of the GOP were intent to making Obama a one term president. Because of that, it seems that they didn't want to work with Obama in the many oppertunities that were available.

    January 21, 2013 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  6. Ran

    Lol who is this "we?" Do you mean liberals? Are liberals suddenly the only ones who can call themselves Americans? What about the other half of the country? Are conservatives and Libertarians no longer Americans?

    January 21, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  7. Alyson Stewart

    Blah, blah, blah...more taxes...blah, blah...more federally funded failed green energy companies...blah, blah...immigration (amnesty for 11 million)...blah, blah...partisan (just do what I say)...blah, blah...can 't really cut spending.

    January 21, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  8. Jm

    Well said and could not agree more, it was a great day!!!

    January 21, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  9. Randy, San Francisco

    A great Inaugural speech in which President Obama has given us reasons again to say, "I'm proud to be a LIBERAL." Liberal is no longer a dirty word. The other tag, "progressive" never did have the same appeal.

    January 21, 2013 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  10. jane

    they're some where close creating a scheme

    January 21, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  11. Marcy Harris

    No Norma, The Congress that WE ELECTED by the Constitution holds the purse strings and Obama's entire platform will fail if he doesn't use persuasion instead of the coercion he has used to date! He needs to compromise. He needs to make nice or he will not be able to do anything legally. If he continues to resort to the heavy handed executive orders which are legislating from the Executive branch, he will risk civil insurrection–but that seems to be what he is inciting with his push on gun control legislation. When he couldn't even get a single vote for his budget from the Democrat controlled Congress he is clearly out of step. When he couldn't get cap 'n trade through the Congress in his early part of his first term when d's controlled both houses and then he pushed it into the EPA as a regulatory measure he clearly overstepped the rights of the executive branch. He is the one that needs to moderate his stance and be willing to pass a budget that even his own honchos will look at. No budget in 4 years Mr. Pres. That is unexceptable!

    January 21, 2013 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  12. Rose Marie

    Norma, When our country is totally destroyed and bankrupt, will you then put the blame on your president who refuses to make the cuts and changes that need to be made. I never heard a Republican ask for a white flag of surrender. I hear them ask for LEADERSHIP, not sarcasm, lies and threats. Yes you people elected him and when the time comes, we won't forget who is responsible for the future of our country and the debt left for our children.

    January 21, 2013 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    Ditto, Norma Vessels! It's about time the Republicans started working FOR the will of the people and not against it.

    January 22, 2013 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  14. plain&simple

    The people,we the people have the greatest power in a democracy. The power to speak,loudly,clearly and frequently. We vote, we speak. It is our obligation ,our responsibility to inform ourselves,to educate ourselves,to be wise and selective. This means we cannot let some talking head on TV or some ranting ratings egomaniac on the radio blurr our vision by appealing to the lowest in us....our FEARS! A leader inspires,a leader calls out to our nobility,our spirit to overcome adversity and gloom. We must vote for people who call us to do better when we know better. This president has set this standard....we the people must ensure it is not a one time event in our history. Look for leadership and a forward vision in our elections. The old way ,the return to glory is a mirage. We build our future through determination ,and courage and a will to leave no one behind. I love this country and what it aspires to be,It's message throughout time has been revolutionary,and it continues to be so today. Look at the methods of the resistance to this president and you see just how powerful his message is.

    January 22, 2013 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  15. Sheldon Green

    Again I will say, The President WON the election. He has no reason to justify his positions because he was reelected and provided a solid mandate by the electorate. Govern, Mr. President, govern!

    January 22, 2013 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  16. Alfredo

    What Huh? said about Nora Vessels.. I have nothing to add. If you can't see it, here it is:
    Norma Vessels
    Some many of the Republican leaders keep saying that our President should reach out to them, should hold out the white flag, if you will. I beg to differ. It's the Republicans who need to take a step forward to the President. President Obama, I'm sure, is really tired of putting out his hand to the Republican leaders, only to have it slapped down. No, you Republicans need to get this straight .. you are not the boss .. you are not in control .. you are not the ones to decide
    what will and will not happen, though you've certainly tried hard enough. We, the people have let you know with the election, that we do not want your ideas of messing up our Social Security, our Medicare and Medicaid, and our programs of help for the unfortunate. Work with our President, whom we elected, and work with the Democrats, who are with us .. or step out of the way.

    January 22, 2013 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  17. Fla native

    Kudos Norma. It IS hard to write any more after your comment.

    January 22, 2013 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  18. anonoymous

    How about Congress work with the president and most importantly for the people. It saddens me that the parties have become so nasty in their attacks. We are the United States. A land envied and feared among nations. We need to act like it.

    January 22, 2013 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  19. Anne

    I couldn't have said it better myself. I'm with Norma on this one.The Republicans(Conservatives in particular,) need to come to grips with the fact that they messed up big time. Now, they must deal with the fact. They can jam things up in the House, but the Democrats have the Senate and the White House. DEAL WITH IT!

    January 22, 2013 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  20. Ginny Albert

    Yes, Norma - well met. I resent the claim by Republicans that the President never reached out to the GOP, that he is responsible for the partisan divide, when their first promise when Obama was elected in 2008 was to make certain that he became a one term president. Can they be more combative? With the urging of the Tea Party, Republicans on the Hill have done all within their power to keep this President from succeeding, not caring that by stalling and obstruction they helped to delay re-employment, healthcare and every other initiative those who voted for Obama expected. And now that the possibility exists that the President, after trying so hard to compromise with them, intends to use executive order to accomplish initiatives that he could not accomplish with their non-participation, there is a call for impeachment by a few Republicans. I can't imagine that Rep. Peter King (NY) would claim there is an imperious tone in Obama's delivery, since the word more correctly describes the GOP.

    January 22, 2013 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  21. eloc35

    Mr. President please hold yourself to the same standards that you held Bush too. If not you are a hypocrite.

    January 22, 2013 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  22. sifto

    Norma–Obama is the "leader"–he is the one who should be "reaching out".......you sound pretty aggressive and standing your ground–not willing to bend for the good of the country–no one side can be 100% right...you should know that there are 2 parties for a reason–to prevent a dictatorship–

    January 22, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  23. Wake up People!

    I second that emotion Norma!!

    January 22, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |