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January 21, 2013

Term II: U.S. must help poor, elderly, Obama says

With no pressure to run again, president speaks more freely

(Continued)

WASHINGTON, D.C. —

 

POLITICAL TALK

Obama never mentioned the words Democrat or Republican, yet his second inaugural address was a decidedly political speech. The president was careful not to make his remarks overtly partisan, but he had a message for Republicans: Compromise and embrace government as part of the solution.

He unexpectedly gave one of his most impassioned calls for climate change — an issue that has not been at the forefront of the political debate. 

“The president may have spent more time discussing climate change in this speech than his entire first term in office,” said University of Michigan debate director Aaron Kall. He described the address as “certainly a bolder and riskier speech from a president that doesn’t have to run for re-election again.”

The president promoted his health care reform and stood up for commitments to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security at a time when some Republicans say entitlement programs need to be scaled back to reduce the deficit. “They do not make us a nation of takers,” Obama said. “They free us to take the risks that make this country great.” 

This was the language of his re-election campaign and an implicit reminder of Mitt Romney’s ill-timed declaration that Obama’s support came from the 47 percent of American voters “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”

St. Johns University political scientist Diane Heith said she was surprised how much the campaign influenced Obama’s speech. 

“This is a continued effort to contrast with the Republican view that government produces dependency rather than Obama’s view of a community taking care of itself,” Heith said. “And some will likely think it was also a bit of a shot at the Republican — Romney — who put that belief out there so baldly.”

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