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Our View: A second term

Updated: February 23, 2013 6:23AM

Four years ago, it was a transition of power from eight years of a Republican president in the Oval Office, to America’s first African-American commander-in-chief moving into the White House. Four years ago, we as a nation made history. We did it again Sunday as Barack Obama joined an elite group, one of 17 U.S. presidents to be sworn into a second term.

Watching Monday’s public festivities from the Capitol, it seemed sort of mundane, swearing in the same guy with whom in 2009 we celebrated a landmark achievement. Guess that’s what’s called progress.

In 2008, cynics dismissed the Illinoisan’s election as a fluke, a victory of symbolism over substance. In 2012, America proved the cynics wrong. Voters, judging Obama by the content of his character, decided he was the man they wanted to lead the nation for the next four years.

Critics on the right complain Obama has been a cookie-cutter liberal, bordering on radical, as revealed by his insistence on the Affordable Care Act and his slowness in tackling the federal deficit. Critics on the left lament that he has been too cautious, failing to stand up for the integrity of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and compromising too much on taxes.

In truth, President Obama has been anything but a lefty radical. He has sought the middle ground on issue after issue, including taxes. Likewise, if he has disappointed more hard-core liberals, it is because he’s a pragmatist at heart, most interested in getting stuff done.

After taking the public oath of office on Monday, fittingly on the holiday for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., much of the public discourse in the coming months will be about the nation’s deficit, tax reform, the economy, the war in Afghanistan, the rising cost of health care, gun violence, global warming.

Second terms normally are about a president’s legacy, what can be accomplished in four years without having to campaign again on one’s record. With the current political climate in Washington, D.C., we hope President Obama rises to meet the challenges facing the nation, with or without help from the Republican opposition.

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