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Sunday, December 21, 2014  

Obama takes on tricky task in second stint
WASHINGTON US President Barack Obama faces a near impossible task in his second inaugural address on Monday: Uniting a nation in which the compromise that oils governing is crushed by deep political divides.

Before a crowd of thousands and the eyes of the world on television and online, Obama will stand on the West Front of the US Capitol and swear to faithfully execute the office of president and defend the Constitution.

In a quirk of history, the 44th president will already be serving the second day of his second term, as the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution states that presidential mandates end at noon on January 20.

When the date falls on a Sunday, the president is privately sworn in - as Obama will be by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Blue Room of the White House on Sunday - and then repeats the ritual for posterity on January 21.

While second term inaugurations lack the majesty of a peaceful power transfer from one leader to another, some have served as important rallying points at perilous moments in US history.

Officials have declined to preview the president’s speech, but he is expected to map the broad contours of his second term, rooted in his campaign quest to frame a more equitable economy.

“I intend to carry out the agenda that I campaigned on, an agenda for new jobs, new opportunity and new security for the middle class,” Obama said on Monday.  In their seminal study of presidential rhetoric, authors Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson identified characteristics underpinning successful inaugural addresses.

First, a newly sworn-in president must unify the wider audience in order to ratify his leadership, and then seal the patriotic binding by reaffirming traditional values drawn from his nation’s past.

Then, presidents seek to lay out the principles by which they will govern and demonstrate that they accept the limitations of executive power, cloaking the whole address in ceremonial and dignified rhetoric.

“Unifying the country is probably the most important requirement of an inaugural address,” said Leila Brammer, a specialist on political rhetoric at Gustavus Adolphus College, Minnesota.

Agence France-Presse
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