WASHINGTON - If you thought President Obama's first term was one long, uninterrupted political brawl, the next four years will make that period look tame by comparison.
If you need any evidence for this prediction, Obama's in-your-face, second inaugural address is Exhibit A. It was a speech tailored to make the hearts of liberal Democrats beat faster, cheering what some in the Washington news media called "Obama unbound."
It was a speech that sent an unmistakable message to his party's base that this time around, it's no more Mr. Nice Guy. The gloves are off, these are my issues, and it's time to pass the rest of my liberal agenda.
His second inaugural sounded more like a State of the Union address filled to the brim with a bigger government shopping list -- one in which he showed himself to be the liberal leader "that many liberals thought they were getting when the voted him into office four years ago" writes Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza.
"This was Obama unbound. Distill Obama's speech to a single sentence and that sentence is: 'I'm the president, deal with it."
Yes, his remarks were wrapped up in soothing rhetoric about Americans coming together, and it paid lip service to dealing with the monstrous deficits and debt. But this was at its heart a combative declaration for a big spending, big borrowing government, armed with a few nasty salvoes aimed at his Republican opponents in the Capitol behind him.
Incredibly, Obama did not deal with the biggest failure of his presidency: a persistently weak, slowing economy that top economic forecasters say was barely growing by 1 percent in the past three months.
Indeed, there was only a passing, empty reference to a recovering economy that remains chronically sluggish and job-challenged. But no calls for stronger economic growth, new job creation and critically needed venture capital investment that plummeted by 10 percent last year.
No fiscal issue is more critical than soaring entitlements that account for a large share of the nation's trillion dollar a year deficits. But aside from some duct tape fixes around the edges, Obama says he will fight any serious reforms to preserve these safety net programs for future generations.
"The commitments we make to each other -- through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security -- these things do not sap our initiative. They strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great."