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President Obama faces tough challenges in 2nd term

President Barack Obama delivers the inaugural address in front of a crowds of hundreds of thousands on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.
January 21, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term in office Monday before a vast and cheering crowd at the historic National Mall.

But as the president embarks on another four years, he faces different expectations and pressing challenges. There is far less optimism in this country today compared to Mr. Obama's first term. "Yes We Can" is a faded memory.

Obama the great compromiser, the person who can bring everyone together, that notion has also faded," said Dr. Lynn Vavreck, a professor of political science at UCLA. "After the first four years, we saw lots of struggles with Republicans in Congress, a lot of things not resolved as most people would have wanted to see them resolved."

That euphoric optimism has been stifled. Americans have sobered up and are wiser to today's politics. The big question is, have lawmakers learned from the tough lessons of the past four years? Will they show up more willing to compromise?

The answer is no, according to Dr. Patrick James, a professor of international relations at USC.

"I think we're going to continue to see a lot of partisanship," he said. "This isn't just about the president and it's not just about congressional leadership. Together they are probably one of the worst combination of people who can be facing the particular challenges they do because they do a very poor job of hiding how much they dislike each other."

In July 2011, I sat down with a then-frustrated Mr. Obama over the debate over the debt ceiling. It was a conflict that was spiraling out of control, Congress was solidifying its reputation as dysfunctional and the president was clearly annoyed. The nasty fight resulted in the first ever downgrading of the nation's credit rating.

What is perplexing about the debt ceiling is that Congress must raise it in order to pay for the spending they have already approved. It begs the question, why is the spending approved if it's not going to be paid for?

As Mr. Obama enters his second term, the nation is weeks away from a new fight over the debt ceiling.

It is going to be brutal, and if people thought the fiscal cliff talks were hard, what we're going to see in the next couple of months, unfortunately, are going to be even more difficult," said Congressman Adam Schiff of Southern California. "We're hearing a lot of members talk about, 'Let's send a message by shutting down the government.'"

The divisive debate over gun control will also be a task the president must face. The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., reignited the discussion. Most polls show the majority of Americans want something done.

"It's been a non-topic on Capitol Hill, but as we have seen this horrible succession of tragedies, culminating in Newtown, it has awoken the resolve of many legislators to really try to tackle this problem, do something about it," said Schiff, who has authored two gun control bills he hopes to see adopted in Congress. "It's still going to be a very tough fight."

Stay with ABC7 for special coverage of the inauguration. Eyewitness news anchor David Ono is in Washington. Look for his reports on Eyewitness News or get the latest by following him on Twitter and Facebook.


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