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Inauguration Over, President Obama Launches Second Term Progressive Agenda

January 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
President Obama began the first day of his second term bright and early with an interfaith prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where the themes of his inaugural address still resonated. Gwen Ifill recaps how GOP lawmakers and superPACs have responded to the president's tone-setting remarks.
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GWEN IFILL:  President Obama’s forceful new focus on progressive ideals echoed across the nation on the day after the inauguration. And it earned him both praise and potshots.

The president’s inaugural themes lingered in the air this morning at a traditional prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral. Methodist Pastor Adam Hamilton offered words of praise in the cathedral’s great vaulted sanctuary.

REV. ADAM HAMILTON, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection: We Americans say it seldom, but we should say it far more often. Thank you for giving yourselves, for sacrificing, for living in glass houses, for accepting the constant barrage of criticism with very little praise, for being willing to risk everything in order to serve this country. Thank you.

ADAM HAMILTON: And, yesterday, you began to lay out a vision for us in your inaugural address that was very powerful and compelling.

GWEN IFILL:  Mr. Obama used that 18-minute address to tack toward a more overtly liberal agenda, perhaps most notable on gay rights.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: 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.

MAN: I now pronounce you married.

GWEN IFILL:  The president first announced his support of same-sex marriage last May. But that reference was a first for a presidential inaugural speech. He also raised immigration reform, an issue that went unaddressed for much of his first term.

BARACK OBAMA: 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 work force rather than expelled from our country.

GWEN IFILL:  The president singled out climate change as well, another issue that remained largely on the back burner during his first four years in the White House.

BARACK OBAMA: We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

BARACK OBAMA: 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.

GWEN IFILL: The calls to action drew cheers from the hundreds of thousands of well-wishers on the National Mall and from most Democrats. But Republicans complained of a defiant tone and a sharply leftward turn, noting, for example, that the president has mentioned the deficit just once.

The superPAC Crossroads GPS unveiled a Web video citing news accounts of the speech.

MAN: The progressive liberal agenda is what he’s now clearly staking his second term on.

GWEN IFILL: And at the Capitol today, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined the criticism.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL,R-Ky,: One thing that is pretty clear from the president’s speech yesterday, the era of liberalism is back. An unabashedly far-left-of-center inauguration speech certainly brings back memories of the Democratic Party of ages past.

If the president pursues that kind of agenda, obviously, it’s not designed to bring us together and certainly not designed to deal with the transcendent issue of our era, which is deficit and debt. Until we fix that problem, we can’t fix America.

GWEN IFILL: White House officials dismissed that critique today. And they said the president will speak directly to a wider array of issues in his State of the Union address in February.