In November last year, President Obama said, after a screening of Steven Spielberg’s biopic of Abraham Lincoln: “Part of what Lincoln teaches us is that to pursue the highest ideals and a deeply moral cause requires you also engage and get your hands dirty.”
As Mehdi Hasan notes on page 36, Mr Obama showed a marked reluctance, during his first term as president, to fight dirty in his countless confrontations with an obstructionist Republican opposition. However, his second inaugural speech suggests that, liberated from the need to seek re-election, he is willing, finally, to take decisive action on a number of issues.
Mr Obama tempered his invocation of American individualism with an appeal to “collective action”. He promised action on marriage equality for “our gay brothers and sisters” and, perhaps most significantly, he promised to respond to the “threat of climate change”. The world will be watching closely and hoping that he keeps this promise.