The Politics of Inauguration Day

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 21, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDNET BARACK OBAMA: It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our, wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.



BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama today on this, Martin Luther King Day, envoking civil rights leaders, not only women who launched the suffrage movement but also others in the Civil Rights movement, MLK, as well as others who fought for civil rights. And what about this theme through this speech and his mention of this particular paragraph? We are back with our panel. Kirsten, you talked about it briefly, is he trying to elevate this to become some kind of broader civil rights leader in a way?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: I think that this has become the big issue on the left, especially among younger people. Gay rights is the civil right issue of our time, and so I think that it's something that the president is appealing to.

As I said earlier, I think it's why the president can give what I consider to be a pretty milquetoast speech that doesn't really talk about any radical, liberal ideas. He wasn't proposing a single payer plan. He wasn't saying he was going to stop his drone war in Pakistan. He wasn't saying he was going to stop pursuing whistleblowers more aggressively than any other president. He wasn't doing any of the things that I think a lot of progressives are really worried about. And he's able to kind of get covered because he takes these positions, which I agree with. I support gay rights and I think it is great he elevated it. But I think he gets a pass in a way. And I think a lot of liberals are saying that this is very liberal because of that.

BAIER: Chuck, there was a quote that caught a lot of people's eye from Dan Pfeiffer, the communication director, and it said this -- he said this, "There is a moment of opportunity now that's important. What's frustrating is that we don't have a political system or an opposition party worthy of the opportunity."

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, that was a nasty crack at the American political system I guess I would say. That's what jumped out at me. And obviously the dig at Republicans is in there, but we've heard that before. I think he walked it back a little later on and tried to say, well, that was just this or that. But that was a rather contentious way to sum up the day.

I guess just sort of briefly on what we have been talking about the whole civil rights aspect. There was a feeling about the inauguration of sort of the reassembling of the block-by-block Democratic coalition that was built up to re-elect Barack Obama, which consisted of Latinos, gays, single women, et cetera, African-Americans, et cetera, et cetera, all of whom sort of had their representatives in the inaugural festivities. I think that the people who watch PBS were there, James Taylor, you know, the guy they always have on during sweeps week. It had that feeling of sort of an event for that coalition, right, and less a feeling of, sort of, a completely apolitical or un-political event.

BAIER: There's all this talk, Steve about Republicans and the demographics shifting on Republicans. Are the demographic shifting for Democrats?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think they could be. You are seeing the president embrace some of these subgroups that Chuck is talking about, I think precisely, because they were such an important part of his coalition, but also to go back to the discussion earlier, because this is who he is ideologically, this is what he believes. And I think what made the speech ideological was not that it had some long, laundry list of preference group issues, or things that are going to excite liberals, but it was a philosophical defense of liberalism. This is what he was talking about. He was praising collective action and talking about how that was responsible for the progress throughout the course of the U.S. history. That's a liberal view and he was arguing it very forcefully.

LANE: Yeah, and defining this moment as a moment where right are what's most important to struggle for.

BAIER: We have 20 seconds, Charles. Can he get this through, the progressive agenda? We will hear the state of the union in two weeks. Can he get it through?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Only if he re-wins the House in two years, which is one of his objectives. But it was not a partisan speech. I don't think it was a speech that should be critiqued because it was out of that spirit. It was an ideological one.  He's proud of his ideology. It represents a large section of America, perhaps a majority. He has every right to proclaim it, but I think it's odd if you deny it.

BAIER: That is it for panel. But stay tuned, no matter your politics, this ending, if you missed it today, well it's worth seeing it again.

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