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Opinion

January 20, 2013

OUR VIEW: Time to get to work, all

THE ISSUE: Monday’s presidential inauguration.

OUR VIEW: Meeting the challenges our country faces will require a team effort, and the president must pledge to be a part of that team over the next four years.

 

Barack Obama set the stage for a new beginning during his inaugural address in 2008.

“Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed,” he said four years ago. “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin the work of remaking America.”

Obama was typically eloquent in his remarks. He brushed aside the assertion that the nation’s best days were behind it, and he called on Americans to join in the effort to build a brighter tomorrow.

Obama covered a lot of ground during the 18-and-a-half minutes he spoke, calling his inauguration as the nation’s first black president a moment to recall “that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” He also paid tribute to those who “endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.”

Obama sent a message to the world that he planned a new day in American foreign policy.

“To the Muslim world,” Obama said, “we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

He warned “leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict” that they would be judged by what they built, not what they destroyed.

On the home front, he called for an end to “the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

And though we’d hoped Obama envisioned a new way of doing things, those grievances, recriminations and dogmas remain. They must be put aside if we are to address — finally — our unsustainable national debt.

Obama and his Democratic colleagues in Congress must work with Republicans to adjust Medicare spending and benefits so that it will continue to insure future generations of retirees. And the GOP must work with Democrats to cut spending on our national defense.

Without cutbacks in these two areas, we’ll never take control of our spiraling debt. To do anything less is just counting paper clips.

Obama faces enormous challenges in his second term, but most Americans seem to understand Washington can’t continue to spend money as it has during the president’s first term. They also need to understand, of course, that Obama won’t be able to do this job alone.

As Obama said in his last inaugural speech, meeting the challenges our country faces will require a team effort. He must pledge to be a part of that team over the next four years, and we must all roll up our sleeves and do our part.

The time for putting off unpleasant decisions concerning Medicare and defense has passed, indeed.

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