Obama sworn in as US President
on 20/01/2013 18:06:09
Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office today in the Blue Room of the White House.
First Lady Michelle Obama, their daughters Sasha and Malia, and a few reporters witnessed the ceremony.
Mr Obama will take the oath again tomorrow during a public swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
Mr Obama was sworn in today to meet a legal requirement that presidents officially take office on January 20.
He made no special remarks at the short ceremony, surrounded by portraits of former White House residents, but was heard to say: "I did it," as he embraced his wife and children.
Tomorrow, he will repeat the oath and give his inaugural speech on the steps of the US Capitol.
He will then make the traditional journey, part of it on foot, down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
While Mr Obama convincingly won a second term, the jubilation that surrounded him four years ago is subdued this time around - a reality for second-term presidents.
He guided the country through many crushing challenges after taking office in 2009: ending the Iraq war, putting the Afghan war on a course towards US withdrawal, and saving the collapsing economy. He also won approval for a sweeping healthcare overhaul.
Yet onerous problems remain, and his success in resolving them will define his place in history.
He faces bitter confrontation with opposition Republicans over gun control, avoiding a default on the nation's debts, cutting the spiralling federal deficit and preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
Joe Biden was sworn in for his second term as vice president earlier today, taking the oath from Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor at his official residence at the US Naval Observatory.
Before taking the oath himself, Mr Obama and his family attended church services at the historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Earlier, on a crisp and sunny winter day, Mr Obama and Mr Biden laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.
Americans increasingly see Mr Obama as a strong leader, someone who stands up for his beliefs and is able to get things done, according to a survey by the Pew Research Centre for the People & the Press.
The survey shows him with a 52% job approval rating, among the highest rankings since early in his presidency. His personal favourability, 59%, has rebounded from a low of 50% in the 2012 campaign against Republican Mitt Romney.
Domestic issues, notably the economy and healthcare, dominated Mr Obama's first term, but there were also critical international issues that could define his next four years.
Mr Obama may have to decide whether to launch a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, something he is loath to do. Washington and its allies believe Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its programme is intended for producing electricity.
Mr Obama will also have to deal with the civil war in Syria, Israel-Palestinian tensions, a chill in relations with Russia and a series of maritime disputes in Asia.
Yet the political battles at home continue to dominate Mr Obama's attention. He faces tough opposition from Republicans, especially from among its tea party wing - politicians determined to shrink government and reduce the taxes. Republicans are themselves divided between tea party loyalists adamantly opposed to compromises on taxes and spending and mainstream Republicans more open to negotiations.
A confrontation is brewing on the need for Congress to raise the limit on US borrowing. Republicans now plan to avoid a fight in the short term, but they will raise the issue again before summer and will again demand steep spending cuts to reduce the government's debt.
Beyond the debt-ceiling debate are other big budget fights. Looming in the coming weeks are automatic cuts to defence and domestic programmes, originally scheduled for January 1, unless Congress and the president act.
And the US budget runs dry in March, leading again to a potential shutdown unless both sides agree on new legislation.