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Die Tageszeitung, Germany

Obama Uses His Chance

By Bernd Pickert

Translated By Tania Struetzel

21 January 2013

Edited by Anita Dixon

Germany - Die Tageszeitung - Original Article (German)

The inauguration of a U.S. president is a demonstration of patriotism — and of power. In no other democratic country is power staged in that way. For one moment the inaugurated president can experience the feeling of being superior as the one who won the elections in November due to a good campaign strategy, sufficient funding and weak rivals. And he can seize the moment to present his political agenda as a completely logical continuation of American history, embedded in the Constitution, in the values and the nature of the United States.

That is exactly what Barack Obama has done — albeit not for the first time. His speech of just less than twenty minutes, interspersed with the mantra “We the People” — the first words of the American Constitution — focused on the themes of liberty, and above all equality. Poor or rich, woman or man, heterosexual or homosexual, U.S. citizen or immigrant — the abolition of these antagonisms in their access to rights and prosperity is what Obama defined as his agenda of “collective action.” And for Obama this means government policies and state action.

The inaugural speech was indeed not taking place in a vacuum. Obama knows precisely what lies ahead of him in the next few months with regard to domestic political conflicts. As in the election campaign against Mitt Romney and the Republicans driven by the Tea Party — who also invoke the constitution — the main topic was that of the role the state has to play in the realization of the American dream for everyone.

On the Same Level as the New Deal

Obama wants to spend money on infrastructure, education and social welfare; he wants to go down in history as a progressive president whose accomplishments can at least be compared to those of Roosevelt’s New Deal, not as a guardian of budget cuts.

On February 12, these issues will be made more explicit in his State of the Nation address to both houses of Congress. Obama has set the tone this Monday in front of the Capitol and has also pushed the Republicans (sure enough without naming them) as clearly into the corner of reality deniers and small-minded politicians as this ceremonial speech permitted.

In February, he will announce the programs he wants Congress to pass. From that moment on all ceremony will have vanished. At the end of February, Congress has to agree to increase the debt ceiling, shortly after the automatic budget cuts — which were only deferred at the end of last year — have to be prevented. Both subjects demand agreements.

On Monday, Obama had the chance to enforce his position in an ostentatious setting. He made use of it. For a few days at least, this will last.



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