President Obama's speech defended liberal touchstones, such as a strong role for government, but it raised issues that could divide GOP ranks, such as gay marriage, equal-pay legislation, and even amnesty for illegal immigrants.
On the first working day of President Obama’s second term, many conservatives are complaining that Mr. Obama’s inaugural address was a paean to liberalism and big government that presages four more years of Washington partisan warfare.
The right charges that Obama’s speech was all about the limits of individual action and the virtue of “collectivism" and that it ignored the biggest problem in US public life: the growing national debt.
“[Obama] hopes to reorient the American mainstream and locate conservatives outside it,” writes Rich Lowry at National Review Online. “He wants to take the Founders from the Right and baptize the unreconstructed entitlement state and the progressive agenda in the American creed.”
Republican lawmakers were generally more circumspect but expressed disappointment that Obama’s speech didn’t contain more talk about reaching out and working with the other side.
“I was more hopeful that you’d hear more bipartisanship,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) of California, House majority whip, in a Tuesday interview on CBS.
What phrases is the right worried about here? Many Democrats were thrilled by Obama’s second inaugural address. They saw it as an unvarnished defense of liberalism and the role of government in American society.
Well, many conservatives did not like Obama’s direct and positive references to gay marriage, equal-pay legislation, and possible amnesty for illegal immigrants. They see these as liberal touchstones and possible wedge issues that might split the Republican Party.
Climate-change legislation is similarly low on the GOP agenda, yet Obama talked at some length about what he sees as the need to take action on this issue.
Obama defended Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as things that strengthen the nation. “They free us to take the risks that make this country great,” the president said.
Yet he said nothing about how he would fund these costly entitlement programs going forward, conservatives said.
“In celebrating the power of the government to lead the nation forward, Obama breezed past the costs of an ever-growing public sector and made only passing mention of the country’s most urgent problem as he took the oath to lead it: debt,” wrote Stephen F. Hayes at the right-leaning Weekly Standard.