Transcript for Obama's Ambitions for His 2nd Term
Sam Donaldson. Who's been with the ABC news since 1967. And -- is on the line with a -- hearing. I -- indeed -- and great to have you we were struck here on the set. You were former colleague who I'm sure you remember finally Jeff Greenfield was pointing out that this was not -- speech. -- -- -- platitudes it was a speech where he took shots. In inaugural address at his opposition. He -- pretty firmly of the left talk about climate change -- becoming perhaps the first president we believe to talk about gays and lesbians. And he's that was that the take away for you the assertiveness of the speech and if not what was the take away. Yes indeed I've been covering these things since 1964. And I've never heard of more political inaugural address unity yes you can disagree -- that. And changing times call for changing. Ways -- only can we disagree with that. Many laid out though an agenda it's very ambitious and in your face to his opponents whether it was a voting. Obstacles whether it was welcoming new immigrants whether it was although he did mention. Gun control by name making our children and Newtown and elsewhere save. And particularly strengthening the middle class against the privileged few -- rich. Who must understand that everyone in this country has a right to enjoy its benefits he's laid out an ambitious aggressive in your face agenda. And those people who who wish him well but understand the history of efforts in the second term can only say good luck. And -- would you say that this speech sort of highlights that he wants to focus on his legacy. Well yes maybe so -- I credited with wanting to do it because he believes -- -- -- thing. I've never known a president who came to office either first or second term. Who says I want to mess up the country -- one -- you know they all believe that what they believe in is good for the country. His problem though is in and I think -- discussed this there was other people in breaking off so many. Things he wants to do. He -- confuses his effort to some extent and if he focuses on the wrong thing first let me give an example. In 2004. George W. Bush won three million more votes than John Kerry. Utility had a mandate -- we set out to use it to privatize some small portion of Social Security for young people. And after he kept talking about it Bill Thomas who was then the chairman of the house Ways and Means Committee came to the White House instead served -- Republican of course. Please stop talking about this because we're not going to do it not just the Democrats on Capitol Hill we Republicans don't have the most to do that. The President Bush kept on until he hit a stone wall many turn to immigration reform. With John McCain and and Democrats. But his power had been diminished but the fact that he -- lost. And he didn't get that done. So those who wish this president well and I'm certainly not one who doesn't. Can only hope that he pursues whatever he -- university campus -- the moment the same time just doesn't work and any witness that. And then goes on -- the second because he loses that whenever that happens to be there may be no such. San there was an interesting morning choose the democratic base that they may have to accept partial victories him in his sweeping agenda. Judy that reflected lessons learned from the first term wasn't just sort of lip service to the idea that they working with DC it's hard. Let's hope so good I think he raised an important point. The Republicans have given in now on the question of raising the debt ceiling next month -- said we'll wait three months until the middle of April and may -- we'll fight them. But in the meantime you've got to come forward with some meaningful cuts in the federal budget identified. -- the president is as Smart as as his fans think he is he'll do that. If he says no we'll we'll get the Medicare later would do this now I'm telling you we have to raise the debt ceiling because it's the right thing to do and he doesn't come forward. In a bipartisan way from his standpoint I think it's a mistake. So still maybe he will because lessons learned is just what you talked about. He's learned that Washington doesn't operate simply because he wanted to do right and -- Very. Pure and all of that and operates the way it operates. It's like a bull. A rodeo in the southwest where I come from. That bullies -- you gotta ride for eight seconds you're not gonna change the ball you have to learn to -- the -- -- he's learned to ride in Washington good. We'll keep in the -- in mind -- your sense something that on opening up and get the sense the table. The president today brought up a problem that many scientists have identified as perhaps the most pressing problem. Facing humanity which is climate change. Scientists are united on this they believe that climate change he's created by humans and that the science is more alarming by the day. This president brought -- climate change in 2009 in his inaugural address and then proceeded to do not much of all at all about. Do you reckon he can ride the bull in a direction toward progress on climate change this time around. Well maybe so maybe we move forward and more people live knowledge -- as you say the vast majority of scientists believe human. Effort contributes to some extent they're divided on how many degrees in a hundred years we will -- -- if we don't do anything. But senator inhofe from Oklahoma and others still maintain at least publicly -- -- -- If you -- activity has nothing do with this it's a natural thing that occurs every news cycle. Four yards and -- -- be enough effort to override that again I think it's where the president puts his his clout he has clout now no question about it. Where -- he put that put out. He he can't fight every battle with the same intensity and put that clout to work with the same intensity he's got to select.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.