Climate change, gay rights prominent in Obama's inauguration speech

The president's second term begins with soaring rhetoric that's sure to delight his supporters.

Obama has been severely criticized by liberals on a number of fronts during his first-term for failing to move the ball on issues like gun control, climate change and the killing of innocent civilians overseas thru drone attacks as part of the continuing war on terrorism.

But he has been relatively forceful in his negotiations on the fiscal cliff and the upcoming debt ceiling issue, so much so that Republicans announced last week that they probably would go ahead and not contest the issue when it comes up next month.

Speaking on MLK Day, the spirit of the former civil rights giant was felt in this passage, where the president invoked that era with the gay rights movement.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

The next paragraph continued to address gay rights, the immigration situation, and gun violence, invoking Newtown.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

And there was this on climate change:

We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

The NY Times reports that Obama is serious about pushing the envelope on this, but not in trying to win votes in the Republican-led House of Representatives. Instead he'll work thru the EPA:

The centerpiece will be action by the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down further on emissions from coal-burning power plants under regulations still being drafted — and likely to draw legal challenges.

That step will be supplemented by adoption of new energy efficiency standards for home appliances and buildings, a seemingly small step that can have a substantial impact by reducing demand for electricity. Those standards would echo the sharp increase in fuel economy that the administration required from automakers in the first term.

In terms of TV pundits, MSNBC's Chris Hayes and Chris Matthews were ebullient, while not surprisingly, Fox News' anchors weren't so charitable. The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer declared it the "end of Reaganism," adding that the speech was a "hymn to big government."

President Obama's inauguration speech today definitely delighted many liberals for his inclusion of several references to a more progressive agenda, beginning with his full-throated endorsement of the signature domestic entitlement programs that deficit hawks say need to be cut and cut now, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Obama invoked those programs (initiated by FDR and LBJ) while also taking a shot at Mitt Romney, Bill O'Reilly and others who say that the he won the 2012 election because he was found to be more appealing to "takers" — you know, that whole 47 percent thing.

"The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. "

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