Obama's Bipartisan Speech

President Barack Obama has begun his administration on a note of pragmatism and bipartisanship. He speaks as though he has no enemies. It is yet to be seen whether his approach will work.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel. And finally this hour, we're following up on President Obama's Inauguration, on some unusual people who attended and some who couldn't and are not happy about that. But first, our senior news analyst Daniel Schorr has been reflecting on the broader meaning of the new president's words.

DANIEL SCHORR: What lingers after the Inaugural is that President Obama has engaged himself in a vast effort at national and global conflict resolution. It seemed characteristic of his approach that he could praise his predecessor for his service to our nation even while denouncing past recriminations and worn-out dogmas.

Other presidents have struck the unity theme. In 1968, a newly elected president Nixon told of seeing on a campaign stop in Ohio, a teenager holding a sign saying, bring us together. But in secret, Nixon divided Americans between friends and enemies.

President Obama summoned America from stale political arguments to common purpose and necessity. Whether he can apply his enormous fund of popular support to achieve that goal is likely soon to be tested. The clash of ideologies remains visible in the argument in Congress over a multi-billion dollar stimulus package now officially called recovery package. In its simplest terms, the argument boils down to liberals seeking more spending, less tax cuts, and conservatives demanding less spending, more tax cuts. Lined up behind the economic crisis are other contentious issues like healthcare and climate change.

Internationally, the president has reached out to the Muslim world and offered to extend a hand to those who will unclench their fists. The proffered hand is soon to be tested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Pakistan and in one or more countries in Africa.

There may come a time when the new president's summons to concord founders on the rock of discord at home or abroad. But for now, Mr. Obama can bask in the glow of support from Americans and from foreign nations. It is for Mr. Obama, as Hamlet said: The time is out of joint. Oh, cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right. This is Daniel Schorr.

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