If President Obama is expecting his conservative adversaries to roll over and accept his agenda for a second term, he is badly mistaken.
It has become clear since his inauguration speech Monday that strong elements on the right will challenge Obama just as aggressively as they did during his first term and in some cases even more forcefully.
A prime example is the National Rifle Association. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre took issue with Obama's comment in his inaugural address that, "We cannot mistake absolutism for principle."
LaPierre countered by declaring that absolutism is an appropriate stance for gun owners to take in fighting Obama's gun-control initiatives.
"Obama wants to turn the idea of absolutism into a dirty word, just another word for extremism," LaPierre told a hunting and conservation group in Reno, Nev.
LaPierre added: "He wants to put every private, personal firearms transaction right under the thumb of the federal government. He wants to keep all of those names in a massive federal registry. There's only two reasons for a federal list on gun owners: to either tax them or take them. ... And anyone who says that's excessive, President Obama says that's an absolutist."
LaPierre said, "We believe in our right to defend ourselves and our families with semiautomatic firearms technology. ... I 've got news for the president. Absolutes do exist. Words do have specific meaning in language and in law. It's the basis of all civilization."
House Speaker John Boehner said he is "up for the fight" against Obama. Boehner told the Ripon Society, a group of moderate Republicans, that the president's goal is to "annihilate the Republican party ... to just shove us into the dustbin of history." Boehner asserted that the GOP-controlled House of Representatives will stand up to Obama just as it has in the past.
Boehner noted that House Republican passage Wednesday of an extension of the debt ceiling until mid-May is designed not to retreat from a budget confrontation with Obama but to delay the fight until a more opportune time. White House officials said Obama will accept the extension even though the president had up to now opposed monthly or other short-term increases in the debt ceiling, arguing that this would hurt the economy.
Beyond all this, the arguments continue over whether Obama is making a lurch to the left. Some analysts saw a newly liberated left-wing Obama evident in his inauguration speech.
He outlined a series of liberal or quasi-liberal objectives for his second term, such as tackling climate change, working to reduce social inequality, to make the tax code more fair reforming immigration policy, and imposing stronger measures to curb gun violence.
But he has supported all these ideas before, even though other liberal initiatives took first priority. His latest initiatives are in fact from the same liberalism playbook he used during his first term, when he pushed for an overhaul of the healthcare system and a liberal stimulus package for the economy. Obama won congressional approval for both.
Obama's critics also aren't accounting adequately for his longtime commitment to compromise in the service of his larger principles. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says, "I would reject the idea that this was an 'ism' speech. This was in fact the opposite of that. ... The only 'ism' that was a part of that [inauguration] speech was his rejection of absolutism. But you can be sure it was confident and it was forceful because he believes we have to act. We have to come together and act."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Politico: "There were one or two sentences obviously [that] conservatives would object to, but 95 percent of the [inauguration] speech I thought was classically American, emphasizing hard work, emphasizing self-reliance, emphasizing doing things together. I thought it was a good speech."
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook and Twitter.