Second Inaugural Special: Barack Obama

Published: PolicyMic (January 21, 2013)

“Are you going to the inauguration?” It’s not an uncommon question to hear in Washington, D.C., especially when you’re on the Metro in the wee hours of the morning with seemingly no other reason to be there. “Yes,” I responded. “That’s where I’m heading.”

“Really? As a spectator?” Maybe I exuded an air of professionalism in spite of myself. “No,” I replied, pulling out my press pass, “I’m one of the bad guys.”

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Second Inaugural Special: Bill Clinton and George W. Bush”

Published: PolicyMic (January 20, 2013)

Editor’s Note: This article is an installment in an 11-part series on the inaugurations of incumbent presidents who were elected to additional terms in office, culminating in an on-the-ground report of Obama’s second inauguration.

Bill Clinton (January 20, 1997) and George W. Bush (January 20, 2005)

1) Clinton (1997)

When Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996, he did so over a nation experiencing unprecedented economic growth and that remained unchallenged as the world’s sole standing superpower. In light of his successes, Clinton had the rare opportunity to reflect not merely on the circumstances of the present, but how they could be framed in the context of America’s past and future. With character gusto, Clinton availed himself fully of this chance, as seen in the opening paragraphs of his second inaugural address.

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Second Inaugural Special: Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan

Published: PolicyMic (January 20, 2013)

Editor’s Note: This article is an installment in an 11-part series on the inaugurations of incumbent presidents who were elected to additional terms in office, culminating in an on-the-ground report of Obama’s second inauguration.

Richard Nixon (January 20, 1973) and Ronald Reagan (January 20, 1949).

1) Nixon (1973)

Richard Nixon’s second inaugural address marks a somewhat paradoxical convergence of triumph and tragedy. On the one hand, he was celebrating a landslide reelection in which he bested the Democratic candidate, Senator George McGovern, in 49 out of 50 states. Even better, he was in the process of bringing an end to the long-standing Vietnam War, capping off an impressive list of foreign policy achievements topped by his success in opening American relations with China. At the same time, the Watergate break-ins had occurred only seven months earlier. While they had done little to harm his reelection prospects, ominous clouds were already emerging which suggested that the burglary might plunge Nixon’s second term in scandal. Though few could have imagined that Nixon would be forced to resign in disgrace just more than a year-and-a-half down the road, there was an unmistakable irony in hearing Nixon say things like, “I ask your prayers that in the years ahead I may have God’s help in making decisions that are right for America, and I pray for your help so that together we may be worthy of our challenge.”

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Second Inaugural Special: Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson”

Published: PolicyMic (January 19, 2013)

Editor’s Note: This article is an installment in an 11-part series on the inaugurations of incumbent presidents who were elected to additional terms in office, culminating in an on-the-ground report of Obama’s second inauguration.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1957) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1965).

Dwight Eisenhower (1957)

The 1956 presidential election marked the centennial anniversary of the Republican Party as a national organization (it had been founded in 1854 but fielded its first presidential candidate in 1856). Although their champion, John C. Fremont, had been defeated by the far inferior James Buchanan in that ’56 election, Eisenhower comfortably won a second term over perennial opponent Adlai Stevenson one hundred years later. Unfortunately, the inaugural address that he used to mark this historic event was disappointingly lackluster. Platitudes on America’s wealth and promise were followed with boilerplate denunciations of Communism and reiteration of classic Cold War internationalism. Perhaps the only noteworthy feature of the address was its unapologetic embrace of the United Nations, a position that’s hard to imagine being advocated by modern presidents even as it was taken for granted half a century ago.

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Second Inaugural Special: Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman

Published: PolicyMic (January 19, 2013)

Editor’s Note: This article is an installment in an 11-part series on the inaugurations of incumbent presidents who were elected to additional terms in office, culminating in an on-the-ground report of Obama’s second inauguration.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (January 20, 1945) and Harry Truman (January 20, 1949).

Roosevelt (1945)

Like Abraham Lincoln 80 years earlier, Franklin Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1945 occurred near the end of one of America’s bloodiest and most pivotal wars. What’s more, just as Lincoln used his inauguration to preach a generous policy toward the post-Civil War South, so too did Roosevelt argue that America should work assertively with other nations to cultivate peace and a sense of global community. While the vision of benign internationalism that he espoused remains controversial to this day, there is little denying that his ideas have managed to profoundly shape the entire world.

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Second Inaugural Special: Franklin Roosevelt

Published: PolicyMic (January 17, 2013)

This article is an installment in an 11-part series on the inaugurations of incumbent presidents who were elected to additional terms in office, culminating in an on-the-ground report of Obama’s second inauguration.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (January 20, 1937) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (January 20, 1941)

Roosevelt (1937)

While Lincoln’s second inaugural may be the greatest of such speeches ever delivered, Roosevelt’s second inaugural gives it a run for its money. Like Lincoln, Roosevelt’s first term oversaw some of the most radical changes ever to occur in American history. In order to fight the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation transformed the relationship between the state and its people, establishing the idea that the government should provide economic security as well as simply protect basic civil liberties. Although these policies had stirred up enormous controversy among conservatives in both parties during the first four years of Roosevelt’s presidency (as they would during the last eight as well), they were resoundingly endorsed by the American people in the presidential election of 1936, in which more than three-fifths of the voting public cast their ballots for Roosevelt, winning him every state except Maine and Vermont. This historic occasion was more than sufficient cause for Roosevelt to brag during his second inaugural, which, in a distinctly un-Lincolnesque manner, he did. At the same time, he also laid out the logic behind his unprecedented actions in language that liberals would continue to use for generations to come. Instead of running away from the Constitution, he placed progressive economic values as being firmly within the spirit of the founders’ intent:

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Second Inaugural Special: Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge

Published: PolicyMic (January 16, 2013)

This article is an installment in an 11-part series on the inaugurations of incumbent presidents who were elected to additional terms in office, culminating in an on-the-ground report of Obama’s second inauguration.

Woodrow Wilson (March 4, 1917) and Calvin Coolidge (March 4, 1925):

Wilson:

Rarely has a president so directly defied the ideological basis of his own reelection than Woodrow Wilson did in 1917. After campaigning on the grounds that he had “kept us out of war” (i.e., the worsening conflict known as World War I), Wilson would use the revelation of the Zimmermann Telegram (in which Germany attempted to enlist Mexico against the United States by offering to return territories conquered during the Mexican-American War) as the basis for involving us in that global conflict. A presidency that Wilson had hoped would be defined by domestic issues was instead destined to be cast on the shores of foreign policy.

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Second Inaugural Special: William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt”

Published: PolicyMic (January 14, 2013)

This article is an installment in an eleven-part series on the inaugurations of incumbent presidents who were elected to additional terms in office, culminating in an on-the-ground report of Obama’s second inauguration.

William McKinley (March 4, 1901) and Theodore Roosevelt (March 4, 1905)

McKinley:

The presidential election of 1900 had been a clear-cut referendum on the question of whether America should pursue an imperialist foreign policy. After entering the United States into the Spanish-American War and thereby conquering new territories across the globe, President William McKinley had fundamentally altered our nation’s relationship with the rest of the world. Gone were the days when Americans took pride in their steadfast adherence to George Washington’s axiom about avoiding “foreign entanglements.” Instead it was up to the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan, to denounce McKinley’s conquests of Cuba and the Philippines. Although Bryan lost, the campaign was at least able to force McKinley to grossly distort his foreign policy record during his second inaugural:

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