Taking to the world's biggest bully pulpit

President Barack Obama waves after his Inaugural speech at the ceremonial swearing-in on the West Front of the US Capitol There are podiums, and then there is this...

The US president rounded off his second and last inauguration day with the troops, at the commander-in-chief's ball.

Even here, speaking down a link to soldiers in Afghanistan, his mind was on the home front - assuring them they would be looked after when they came home, given a heroes' welcome.

He does not want any new foreign wars, but he has signalled he is ready for a series of monumental fights at home.

He has used the biggest bully pulpit he will ever get to punch home a feisty message that contained not an ounce of compromise.

When Teddy Roosevelt, who was president from 1901-09, spoke of the White House "bully pulpit" he didn't mean "bully" as in "pushing people around", but simply the old-fashioned sense of "fantastic", enormous" and "unbeatable".

President Barack Obama seems to agree this ability to preach to a nation is the source of his power, really his biggest weapon.

Fire in the belly

His speech has delighted most supporters, linking their philosophy - liberal, progressive, call it what you like - with America's most cherished values.

The framework of the speech was the argument that the ringing words of the founding fathers find real expression in his values.

But it was more than abstract argument. For anyone who has missed it so far, his re-election has put fire in the president's belly.

Gone were the aspirations of 2009 for a new, harmonious, purple politics where men and women put aside partisan politics and seek common ground.

Once more he punched home his priorities: immigration reform, protecting the elderly and the sick, investing in schools and roads and gun control.

His shout out for "gay brothers and sisters" has enraged conservatives.

Adding climate change to his already long "to do" list shows this man does not expect a quiet life.

As he sat down, supporters were getting emails urging them to join a new campaign, not this time to win an election, but to fulfil its promise.

It is not easy to see how even the most enthusiastic support of Democrats earns him Republican votes in the House - perhaps by dividing moderates off from the rest in the face of public opinion; perhaps it's about the mid-terms in 2014.

But this president is loving the bully pulpit and he is not about to climb down.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    AndreaNY@133"...Obama cannot handle them."

    And the leaders of the House Republican caucus can't handle them either Andrea -- and that is at the heart of the matter.

    But do your own thing. If you and your fellow Republicans prefer "fighters" over legislators, ideological purity over problem solving -- you'll certainly get what you wish for.

    For a while.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Re. 107:

    No, this is beyond the Gerry-mander. Because voter suppression is no longer adequate to subvert the will of the majority, several GOP state legislatures are considering new methods of apportionment for electoral college delegates. Example, a proposed plan in Pa. would have given Romney 13 of their 20 votes based on the 2012 results, even though Obama carried the state by more than 5%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Republicans..if they can ..um..quit being the angry old party...

    William F Buckley--he was a great wordsmith, intellect and human gift to conservatives. True conservatism--capitalistic yearning for solvency for

    America Is still the issue that can derail our jubilation at the inaugeral moment--

    please look for buckleys debates where he "disembowled" Gore Vidal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Patience to you, Andrea

    And Ms. Lucy J yourr comments mostly are fine. But, um using the word Gay for you in comments should at least be (since there ARE probably 15 miilion Gays in this USA world) curbed...as in "being offensively beyond the pale"

    Otherwise, I appreciate Lucy Js comments.

    Yes Im Gay and have rights..to breathe and be..and not be soo offended--this is truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    127. Magic

    Patience. Eventually people will start asking where the jobs are. And when all Americans are actually taxed to pay for bigger government, they, too, will start asking why they (Who me?) have to pay for it. They'll quickly tire of the "Unemployment State".

    O's paving the way for a presidential candidate who can focus on putting people back to work and tackling the global economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    26. Curt

    AndreaNY@108"What is new..."

    ...is a Republican party that is unable to exert any discipline within its own ranks

    Have to call you on this one. Congress has always been a difficult group. In fact, they are the most seasoned fighters in the country (next to the military).

    Obama cannot handle them. Never learned. Unless there's some big bills he negotiated that we all missed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    The US is the only major democracy where a government can be formed without control over the legislature. It is good that Obama is no longer truckling to the bigots and fanatics, but will he achieve anything?

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Watch the video of Obama's speech again and this time pay attention to all the Revolution and military references. Maybe you will have a better understanding of America when you realize we are still a revolutionary country. The Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Flag, etc.

    Now you may think that's crazy, but that's who we are.

  • Comment number 130.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    "Taking to the world's biggest bully pulpit"

    We the readers reserve the right to fail editorials which:
    - Are likely to disrupt, provoke, attack or offend.
    - Are racist, abusive or otherwise objectionable.
    - Contain language likely to offend.
    - Condone or encourage unlawful activity.
    - Are "spam", that is posts containing the same, or similar, content posted multiple times
    - Are off-topic

  • Comment number 128.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    To the Obama supporters
    Do you suppor tthat those who work for a living should not have to pay for those who refuse to?
    Should workers compete in a level playing field instead of giving a political connected group who does inferior work set aside jobs
    should everyone pay their fair share?

    Because Obama does not believe in any of that

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    AndreaNY@108"What is new..."

    ...is a Republican party that is unable to exert any discipline within its own ranks and is allowing a small group of radical right-wing extremists to lead it around by its nose.

    And the whole country suffers because of it.

    Apply your efforts to putting your own house in order Andrea -- if it's not already too late.

  • Comment number 125.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    ref #82
    I live in a state where none of the reps or senators including the one former Senator who was republican sign the Norquist pledge.

    But I can say that noen onthe Mass delegation other than Scott Brown and Steven Lnych ever served the needs of real working people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    House Republicans will Vote against anything the Whitehouse presents, even their favorite food; Hog Jowls and Chittlins.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Keith @120
    Life goes on!

    The sun never sets on hope

    Inadvertent promoters certain

    Fear & greed increasingly recognised

    Teachers of our need

    To be free

    Equal partners

    Heaven secured

    To the stars

    Otherwise to leave threads such as this

    "Cause of Death: malignancy"

    Hope being without guarantee

    This side of eternity

    Goodnight from UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    118. Keith Hudson IMBIDIMTS

    Ditching rights is an option, the time warp is over

    Anyone who misses the near obsession of Americans with their rights -- whether they grant abortions or the right to own a gun or even to stop and frisk someone in a bad neighborhood -- will remain ignorant of and/or befuddled by Americans.

    It's almost always comes down to "rights" and always involves a battle.

  • Comment number 120.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Keith @113
    Such patience!

    It keeps them off the streets
    Draws out non-arguments
    Upholds faith in humanity
    Visiting young heartened
    Despite the brutal realities
    With no wider responsibility
    More free to make mischief
    If not the 1-3% 'structural'
    The 'socially anti-socialised'

    Do take care
    Branch out
    Have a life!


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