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 Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    257 LJ

    ‘as an American I do have the right to freedom of speech’


    As the UK stand up Al Murray said.- ‘I love Yanks. They'll always speak their mind.

    Even when there's nothing actually in there, they'll give it a pop...’

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Leo: So, your "unnatural" argument against gay-marriage is making what point, exactly?

    That every child deserves a mother and father

    Nothing can replace a mother

    Nothing can replace a father

    John: Doesn’t mean you’ve any right to tell others how to live their lives

    So they why are they telling me how to live mine?

    Anyhew as an American I do have the right to freedom of speech

  • Comment number 256.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 255.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    222. In-Out Toke Read the book "American Nations" by Woodard and it will explain this and the inability of some posters to understand each other [on this and pretty much any topic].

    MS 228 Fundamentalists prefer the OT, based on hate and barbarism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    179 MidwesternSue
    It is you who misunderstand. You do not have freedom of religion if others can force their religion or its dogmas on you. Our founders understood this. Freedom of religion MUST entail freedom from others forcing theirs on you, and this means separation of church and state.
    189. Of course heterosex has no health or other risks. Are you serious?

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    59 DenverGuest
    But think of all the war profiteering profits going to GOP [mostly not all] friendly companies. Think of the PROFITS!

    82 Curt Carpenter
    I had hoped for a revitalized more centrist GOP. Instead of learning from their debacle they got more obstinate. Time for the GOP to Join the Whigs and Know Nothings [so apt for Palin’s Party] in the dustbin of history. Good riddance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    RE #4 "Trying to circumvent them just compounds the problem."
    The President was elected by a majority of all the people twice, and the Democrats in the congress by their constituents. The right-wing GOP-FOX-TEA Party trying to circumvent them is the problem. Majority support for RoevWade, more gun control, equality for LGBT AMericans and better health care.
    Go get'em Mr. President!

  • Comment number 250.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    DavidinUSA @245
    Best Latin fields level

    Need for Equal Players, is in consumer-side of retail

    Given democracy, equal partnership, happy to 'let 'the markets decide much', subject to legislative framework, provider-side agents free from the personal conflicts of interest that have scarred history (even now hurting millions, dragging down economies, endangering our planetary home)

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    247. DavidinUSA

    Man up, then. Show us the fiscal theory which has charges on income - such as tax - as being equal to/synonymous with caps on income.

    Unless you can do that, please do not condescend to me with faux-intellectualism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.


    Oh dear. You provide evidence for my theory that Obama's support depends in large part on the fiscal illiteracy of the majority. Like Plato's "Gorgias', he can mouth platitutdes that reflect & amplify the masses' resentments - and all the time the economy slides downwards. Suits you, Mr President!

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    245. DavidinUSA

    Tax increases are not income caps. Try again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    "Show me some policy of the Dems which proposes capping income from innovation or self-employment and I'll accept your argument."

    Er...how about increasing the rates of capital gains taxes (which can affect artists who create tangible items and also innovators like patent creators)?

    #242.All for All
    You seem to be suffering from agoraphobia (fear of markets).

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Re. 224 Midwestern Sue: "The GOP Congress ran a surplus with Clinton."

    Sue, the key to the surplus you reference was the 1993 Budget Reconciliation Act. It reduced the federal civilian pay roll, slightly raised taxes and received not one GOP vote, but has since allowed them to suggest they had something to do with this achievement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Therefore, in the future..women being slightly more numerous ..youth growing up..

    With me and other aging (rapidly) people..well..demograhics being against

    the Old and angry party...

    I rest my case---

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Calm down, Dave!

    To reach equal partnership, richer half of US citizens would understand benefits, then vote 'to raise' the other half to full citizenship, democratic dignity, security, freedom of conscience for all

    In that circumstance, 'thinking what we can do for humanity', would you still insist 'success' to be in 'taking personal advantage' of market demand?

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    239. DavidinUSA

    Show me some policy of the Dems which proposes capping income from innovation or self-employment and I'll accept your argument has some relevance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.


    Demographics changing some old and angry anti intellectual voices do not equal and will not equal a majority when one

    is (like me)aging rapidly..

    say bye bye now Republicans or change your platform--go back to truth ....

    insolvency matters..I may be Gay, but like many Obama voters am tested intelligent, educated and the GOP needs US not the readership here that Ive seen sofar

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    "at present, the situation in the US is there is too little equality."

    Your opinion (platitude?) is shared by the many have-nots, & Obama has tapped into this mass resentment of success.

    I suggest that there should be no limit to the rewards of the talented. If Placido Domingo makes millions selling CDs, who am I (or you?) to decide that his income should be capped?


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