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January 19, 2013

Local views mixed on Obama's second term

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — “It’s a wonderful opportunity to see American democracy in action,” Rev. Paul Messner said when asked why he's attending Monday’s inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The Worcester resident is pastor of the Otsego County Lutheran Parish, though he is attending as a private individual. He is one of two area residents interviewed Saturday who will be at the event in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Several others who will remain here shared their opinion about what they are expecting from Obama's second term.

Messner said he has been attending the quadrennial ceremony since 1973, when he was a political science major at American University. He attended in 1977 as a seminary student at Gettysburg and every time since.

“I am a political junkie," he said about why always attends. He will be going with two area students who responded to an invitation he regularly makes.

He looks forward to the whole experience. “It’s a great time to be in Washington, D.C.,” though not because of the weather, which can be cold this time of year, he said.

It won’t be as dramatic as Obama’s first swearing-in, he said. It doesn’t matter about a person’s affiliation, and Messner did not want to identify his, but it was “very emotional” to witness the first African-American president take office, he said.

With divided government in Washington, he expected the next four years will be “contentious.” He is always hopeful it will be different, but he is also a realist, he said.

Former Oneonta Mayor Kim Muller, a Democrat, said she will be at the nation’s capital for the events. This is the fourth inauguration she will be attending, including Obama’s first term and both terms of Bill Clinton.

“It’s a great celebration” and she is looking forward to attending some museums and inauguration-related activities, she said.

In the next term, she expects the economy will continue to be a big issue, as well as foreign affairs, including the situations in Syria and Iran. Social issues, such as gun control, will also be on the table, she said.

She expects Obama to continue to be successful, but with divided government, she hoped the Republican-controlled House is able to work more cooperatively with the Democratic-controlled White House and Senate.

Daily Star conservative columnist Chuck Pinkey said he gives Obama credit for “tenacity” in his first term, though “I disagree with everything he does.” He said he was looking forward to the continued gridlock that divided government will bring, at least until the 2014 election when voters can have a chance to change the makeup of the Senate.

“My only hope is we can stop him from pushing his liberal agenda,” he said. He said he hoped that Obama would compromise on such issues as spending cuts, but realistically the best that can hoped for is “we can hold him at bay and minimize the damage,” he said.

He doesn’t think Obama will get major changes through the House and Senate on gun laws, though some minor changes are possible. Fiscal issues will continue to be important, though he hoped Republicans can “stand together before there is no party left.”

Two people interviewed at the Southside Mall discussed the inauguration. Amanda Robinson, 19, is a freshman at Hartwick College, where her studies include political science. She plans on tuning in to Monday’s event, and said she considers herself a political independent.

In a second term, “Democrats and Republicans need to find more common ground” addressing such issues as improving the economy. She admitted she wasn't sure if that was realistic, but with repaying student loans and finding a job being part of her future, she was hopeful.

Lee Faulkner, 60, of West Oneonta, said he voted for Obama but he has some reservations. The division between the two parties is a big issue, but the Republicans seem more interested in stopping Obama than doing something for the people, he said. He isn't optimistic about the two parties working together in a second term.

“Politicians just want to get re-elected,” he said. However, “I’d like to see them reform the tax code and take a little of the burden off the middle class."

This would call for corporations paying more than they do now, he said.