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Obama's best needed in second term

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 4:58 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — President Barack Obama will be inaugurated as president for the second time today, and while the occasion may be less historic than his first swearing-in, it remains significant.

Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009 followed his November 2008 victory that saw him become the first African-American to be elected president of the United States. Understandably, the vast majority of his fellow African-Americans took great pride in his success, and many other Americans of all ethnic backgrounds were enthusiastic about the prospect of his presidency.

It’s a coincidence that Obama’s second inauguration coincides with the nation’s observance of Martin Luther King Day, the first national holiday to honor the contributions of an African-American. But in his second term, Obama needs to move beyond the historic significance of his first election to prove that voters were right to return him to office.

It’s unfortunate that Obama’s first term was marked by escalating partisanship in Washington, resulting in virtual gridlock since the Republican Party gained a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives following the mid-term elections of November 2010. Any objective observer must concede that the president has faced unusually venomous criticism from extremists, but the president needs to be thick-skinned and willing to work with his opponents for the good of the country.

Obama has shown the ability to compromise on some issues, but on others only seems to give lip service to the idea of bipartisanship. For their part, Republican leaders who publicly declared their highest priority to be denying Obama a second term now must put aside their purely partisan approach and instead focus on working with him to address the nation’s many pressing problems.

We believe Americans don’t want to see a repeat of the debt ceiling debacle that gave the United States such a black eye in 2011. It was that fiasco that put the country in the position of having to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” at the beginning of this year, and the brinkmanship and posturing that preceded the eventual agreement reached was not an encouraging sign for what’s ahead in 2013.

And while Obama understandably may be frustrated by having to work with Congress, his decision last week to issue executive orders related to the gun control debate will win him few friends on Capitol Hill. Acting unilaterally on such a contentious issue goes against the spirit, if not the exact letter of the law, of the constitutional system of government. Obama has every right to present his proposals for dealing with gun violence to Congress, but he also must respect its power and prerogative to enact legislation or defer as it sees fit.

Patriots in both parties have legitimate disagreements about how our government should approach vital issues such as the nation’s debt, immigration, foreign policy and many others. President Obama must provide leadership that works to reconcile these differing visions while keeping the common good foremost. For this one day, at least, even his opponents should put aside their private and political feelings, and join his supporters in wishing him a successful second term for the sake of all Americans.

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