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Obama, Biden begin second term’s inaugural rituals

Array
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_UNITED States (U.S.) President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday officially began the journey into their second term in office at two different low-keyed inaugural swearing rituals.

With an estimated 800,000 people expected to gather in Washington D.C. today to watch Obama’s public swearing-in for another term, the tenure officially began yesterday, according to agency reports.

Obama (51), with a slight smile, took the oath at an intimate, private ceremony in the Blue Room of the White House lasting less than a minute, raising his right arm and placing his left hand on a family Bible.

He solemnly swore to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God.”

Chief Justice Roberts, who stumbled when swearing in Obama to open his first term in 2009, read each line of the oath out loud, before the president repeated words first intoned by George Washington, 224 years ago, to comply with the U.S. Constitution, which dictates his first term ends at noon on January 20.

After a ceremony lasting less than a minute, Obama hugged his wife, and children Malia, 14 and Sasha, 11 before quipping: “I did it” to his youngest daughter,

As part of tradition when that date falls on a Sunday, Obama will repeat the oath in a public ceremony today, and deliver his inaugural address to Americans, and the watching world, outside the U.S. Capitol.

Biden had earlier yesterday took his oath in the morning at the Naval Observatory. The vice president placed his hand on a thick and weathered-looking Bible held by his wife, Jill, and pledged to “support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

The ceremony was officiated by Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor and was attended by a number of Biden’s family members.

When Obama’s second term presidency is inaugurated formally today, the symbolic action would herald a week of festivities that will include the swearing-in ceremony proper, inaugural address and parade as well as the often glamourised presidential balls

The official theme for the 2013 inauguration has been named “Faith in America’s Future,” commemorating the United States’ perseverance and unity, marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the placement of the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol Dome in 1863.

An estimated 1.8 million people attended the 2009 Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama, a record-breaking number for any event in the nation’s capital. But this year’s event would be lower keyed.

Former President George W Bush does not plan to attend Obama’s second inauguration, joining his father, former President George H.W. Bush, among the living former presidents who are sending regrets, according to several high officials with knowledge of inaugural planning.

According to the ABC news, the Bush’s decisions mean Obama’s second oath of office will occur with only Democratic former presidents sharing the stage. Both former President Bill Clinton and former President Jimmy Carter plan to attend.

The younger Bush is citing his father’s declining heath as reason for not attending, according to the officials. The older Bush, who is 88, was just released from the hospital this week after an extended illness.

Today’s partial ex-presidential attendance will therefore stand in contrast to Obama’s first inauguration, in 2009. All four living presidents attended that event – including, George W. Bush, who was turning the office over to Obama. Former presidents are invited to the inauguration by tradition, though not all have attended with regularity.

However, Obama will today lay out a broad vision for America in his inaugural address. He plans to tackle immigration reform, gun violence and the national debt in his second term.

Expectations for his speech are high, though historians said the true measure of his presidency will be his ability to turn those words into action and avoid the “curse of second term associated with some second term American presidents.”

Obama was Time’s 2012 Person of the Year, and Gallup’s adjudged “most admired” man in the world for the fifth year in a row. But as he begins the journey into another four-year and final term as U.S. president, even on Day 1,460 of his presidency, the question persists: Who is he, really?

Notwithstanding that, Obama’s approval ratings are at their highest levels in three years. And the American public is on his side on such issues as gun control and immigration.

A majority of Americans want stricter gun laws, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

A return of a nationwide assault weapon ban is supported by 58 per cent of Americans and 65 percent said they would back a law banning ammunition clips containing more than 10 bullets, the poll found.

Obama unveiled a comprehensive package of gun measures last Wednesday, some he can achieve on his own, but others that will require Congress’ support.

Obama will face a struggle to get his own party on board. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has reportedly said he won’t push through the Senate a bill that cannot pass the House.

According to The Washington Post, there is a common refrain that Obama seems elusive, if not mysterious; less easily categorised and understood than the last Democratic president. Bill Clinton’s traits were so extra-large and variegated, for better and worse, that something in him seemed to connect to almost anybody and anything.

No doubt Obama is a different breed of cat. Aspects of his political personality are less vivid than Clinton’s. But he is not overly elusive. His mystery is hiding in plain sight. There is a pattern to his behaviour, just as there was with Clinton. Where Clinton was protean, Obama is more slowly evolving.

But it took one of the best days of his political career and the worst day of his presidency, in combination, to push his evolution to another stage. These were his re-election on November 6 and the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., 38 days later.

His unlikely rise had been shaped by his study of power, beginning with his days as a community organizer in Chicago, and an uncanny ability to avoid traps that would diminish power. The 2012 election, in essence, was his last trap. But the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School forced him to reconsider the moral balance of what he had done, or failed to do, to reach that point.

If December 14, 2012, was, as he said, his most difficult day in the White House, one unspoken aspect of his despair was a sense of deep remorse that, in the service of political survival, in the pursuit of power, in the obsession with avoiding traps, he had given little more than perfunctory attention to the issue of gun control.

Obama is coming to this term in a new place as a man and as a politician, not only forged by the experience of his mistakes but also more integrated in character. His will to survive is less likely to contradict his will to do good. That’s likely to be evident in how he handles his larger agenda.

Obama’s second inauguration, which is coming courtesy of an election win over Republican Mitt Romney in November, lacks the hope and history that pulsated through his swearing-in as the first black American president in 2009.

Since then, a graying Obama has been battered by a weak economic recovery, failed to meet hugely elevated expectations for his presidency and waged a political war of attrition with Republicans.

Obama is beginning anew with several fierce budget battles looming in Congress, and his “Yes We Can” rhetoric soured by sarcasm over the blocking tactics of Republicans in the partisan brawl paralysing government in Washington.

While polls show Obama’s approval ratings above 50 percent – far higher than the reviled Congress – they also indicate that many Americans, wearied by a stop-start recovery, doubt their country is headed in the right direction.

Abroad too, the U.S. confrontation with Iran is fast headed to a critical point with the specter of military action becoming ever more real, the longer diplomacy over Tehran’s nuclear programme stuck in neutral.

Moreso, terror strikes that killed Americans in Benghazi and Algeria call into question Obama’s election year soundbite that “Al-Qaeda is on the run,” despite the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Increasing muscle flexing by China and rising tensions in contested waters with its neighbours, as well as North Korea’s nuclear belligerence, will meanwhile test the president’s signature pivot of U.S. diplomacy to Asia.

 

 

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