Obama to acknowledge divided Washington in Inaugural Address
January 19th, 2013
05:44 PM ET
10 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.

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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. bill davis

    Sure glad he has a teleprompter, he can vote present, and cater to non taxpayers for votes.

    In the eyes of the children, they smile now, but will be stuck with the bills in the future.

    Easy to fool the kids..

    January 20, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  2. jpmichigan

    WE will have a continuation of the last 4 years. More spending and more in debit we will be, a large government will less of a positive results. Continuation of no budget by the Democrats, this is how the spending will continue, and the President will continue to cry foul when the debit ceiling isn't raised to pay for the last 4 years of spending. THIS CANNOT CONTINUE TO GO ON ! The House passed 4 budgets and the Senate did not even pass the Presidents budget, the Senate continues to break the LAW (law states there is to be a yearly budget).

    January 20, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. BPepik

    GDP growth down to 1.2%, we now have 24 million people without job, we have 8% official and 13% unofficial unemployment, we got 48 million on food stamps, we “achieved” 16 trillion dollars in debt, Middle East is now under control of fanatic Islamists, US embassies got attacked just like during Clinton years, Iran is within reach of nukes, America is becoming laughing stock of the world.. and LIBERAL MORONS talk about "war on women" gobbledygook and about “war on Big Bird”..?! Greece – heeeeeere we come..!

    January 20, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. Tom

    Let's face it folks, the tea party republicans don't want America to succeed under the Obama administration.

    January 20, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  5. nothing new here

    I support President Obama's plan to enforce stricker background checks for gun ownership, esp. for private sales at gun shows.
    And why shouldn't the government legislate guns? Goodness knows the dang government legislates everything else (abortion, cars, alcohol, drugs), then why not this?
    I am a Libertarian Independent voter, I believe in fiscal conservatism. But the GOP needs a reality check. If Republicans want unlimited access to guns, then there should be unlimited access to everything else that is considered "controversial".

    January 20, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  6. nothing new here

    "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."
    And I agree.
    I would think that immigration reform would be an easier task than gun reform. Get this done.

    January 20, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. fernace

    I wish the President & 1st Lady a great inauguration & party! Here's my wishlist of topics I want covered: Citizens United–or "corperations are people too, my friend,"the single most destructive amendment to our voting process, ever! It Must go!! Environment–we are destroying not only our own, at an alarming rate, but causing the endangerment & extinction of non-human life! The planet was set up w/a flora & fauna that has a symbiotic relationship which supports life of all kinds! We are responsible to keep it that way & are doing an F grade job! The Planet will survive, we will not! My last wish is a Rider on this wishlist, which Has to be granted when Obama grants my other wishes! Oh, my wishlist is denied because of this rider!? Imagine that! Political Trix–get rid of all the progress blocking trix, no more stupid riders on sensible bills, or tactics to keep sensibility from being heard! If you'd be fired for using trix in a regular job, it shouldn't be allowed in politix! A dream, I know!!

    January 20, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  8. Spam Eater

    Watching the chosen one read from a teleprompter is no longer impressive to anyone other than the most gullible.

    January 20, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. angeleyes08

    Why are you folks who are talking about a teleprompter saying anything? Your buddy Willard lost. Get over it and focus on getting your party together before you all become extinct.

    January 20, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  10. Woman In California


    I hope you find out what you're saying is really silly and unrealistic, since the president is among those considered rich. He is only following the teachings of Christ, by caring for those who are "least" among us. Are there a lot of people out there using the system when they could work? Yes, and I too would like to see something done about that, but there are also those who really need help and have no voice. I am very proud of the president for looking out for them and America for giving him a second chance to clean up and continue moving us forward.

    January 20, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  11. Evergreen

    We, as a nation, will never do grand things again as long as one party is afraid it will make the other party look good. We would have never gone to the moon if this form of politics had existed then. For the good of the country, our politicians need to get beyond this.

    January 20, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. obama is a fraud...HE'S the one who ran on dividing people, HE has pitted one group against another

    rich vs. poor
    men vs. women
    illegal immigrants vs legal
    catholic vs. progressive
    union vs. non union
    muslim vs. "intolerance"
    black vs. white
    trayvon vs. "white justice"
    black harvard prof vs. white boston cop
    old vs. young
    universal health care vs. "unfeeling republicans"

    January 20, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  13. Crocker

    Of course he should acknowledge a divided America. He and his political hacks are responsible for it so why not own it?

    January 20, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  14. Tim in San Diego

    I'm a taxpayer (2011 AGI of $120,804) and I SUPPORT MY PRESIDENT.

    January 20, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  15. Angry Voter

    He's swearing to limit himself to the Constitution, and while he's saying the words, he's trying to figure out ways around the document. He's divided Congress so that he can run over them, and they don't even see that they are being played. He's set one American against Another in a way that has not been seen in the last two hundred years, and used it to great advantage in manipulating both groups for his own ends. He's spent money in amounts that have never been see on this planet, and if they actually printed the money he's spent, it would take every tree in the entire state of Kentucky to print it.

    He's divided us so that the racists who hold his strings can destroy out nation.

    January 20, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  16. Ivan

    Despite the rhetoric, the President and Democrats have spent a great deal of time and effort dividing Washington and the country.

    The Republicans have as well.

    Representatives from both parties will continue to do so until this country finally outlaws career politicians and special interest groups.

    January 20, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
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