TRANSFORMATIONAL OR NOT?
Analysis about today's events from AP National Political Editor Liz Sidoti, who has covered presidential politics for more than a decade:
President Barack Obama wanted at the start of his first term to be a transformational president who tackled big domestic problems that other politicians had kicked down the road. But that was before he assumed office in the middle of two wars, and an economic crisis. Out of necessity, the bulk of his first term was spent on those matters.
Yes, he did manage to remake our health care system — an enormous achievement but one that also severely divided the country. But, aside from that, much of his first term was marked by partisan fights, gridlock and stalemate as both he and Republicans dug in on their respective positions on various issues — and chose to put the ideological purity of their bases over pragmatic solutions for the rest of the country. Obama himself acknowledged he was frustrated by his failure to change the way Washington works. And, at the end of his first term, a familiar script was playing out as the White House and Congress neared the brink of economic disaster, only to reach for compromise at the last minute to temporarily avert crisis.
Now, at the start of a new term, he has one more shot to go big before he goes home. But he faces the same political situation as he did before: Republicans control the House and his fellow Democrats run the Senate. Yet, he faces a different set of issues, mostly domestic in nature unless foreign crisis flares.
So, he must decide. Does he dig in deep on his Democratic principles, or does he look for areas of compromise with Republicans — and find solutions to everything from our broken immigration system to mass shootings to a convoluted tax code. The answer to that question could suggest whether he simply makes change at the edges, or whether he accomplishes big things — and becomes a transformational figure for more reasons than simply being the president.
—Liz Sidoti — Twitter http://twitter.com/lsidoti
Inauguration Watch follows the events of President Barack Obama's second inaugural. Look for short items and photos throughout the day.