Obama's second wind

Obama's second wind
By Euronews
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Barack Obama can let his ambitions run more freely during his second term in the White House. His actions will not be limited, thinking about re-election this time. Four years ago he took the long view, naming his priorities.

He was all fired up in 2008… Some promises he kept, others not by a long shot, and some are partially accomplished.

Obama said in his speech: “In the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges that we can only solve together, reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.”

Raising taxes on the very rich: check. Holding rates steady for almost everyone else: check. That was a long haul, working a deal with the Republican conservative opposition. By the end of this March, the Democratic leader will have to hammer out an agreement with them on the country’s debt ceiling and lowering federal spending. There is no guarantee they will succeed.

Thomas Mann, an analyst with the Brookings Institution, said: “In these deeply polarised times, I don’t think political capital exists. Certainly, Republicans showed no respect for the capital he presumably earned as a result of his stunning and overwhelming victory in the 2008 election. To a person, Republicans opposed him on virtually everything he tried to do.”

Sometimes it helps to play a little golf together. That’s what Obama did with Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner when the budget crisis reared its head in 2011. But it didn’t make the tasks any easier.

Obama said: “I like Speaker Boehner personally. And when we went out and played golf, we had a great time. But that didn’t get a deal done in 2011. You know when I’m over here at the congressional picnic, and folks are coming up and taking pictures with their family, I promise you, Michelle and I are very nice to them and we have a wonderful time. But it doesn’t prevent them from going onto the floor of the House and, you know, blasting me for being a ‘big-spending socialist.’”

Obama says he’s going to have more time for socialising [no pun intended]. His growing daughters are more independent now. But he still has a whole stack of commitments.

We asked Ian Millhiser, a constitutional policy analyst with the Center for American Progress Action Fund about the inauguration of President Obama’s next four years.

Adrian Lancashire, euronews:
“There is a vast debate about his first term ambitions balanced against the results. Obama has many tasks he wants to accomplish in his second term. What will he give the most energy, and what kind of realistic prospects does he have?”

Ian Millhiser:
“I think the two issues that he most wants on the agenda are guns and immigration. He wants to fix that.

“The thing that’s going to be forced on him, is that the House of Representatives, unfortunately, is engaged in some very dangerous tactics, for example threatening to make the United States default on its debt, threatening to shut down our government unless Obama agrees to very steep cuts in benefits to seniors and poor people, and other groups that really need those benefits. So, unfortunately i think that Obama is going to have to play with their game of brinksmanship, and hopefully find a way to diffuse it.”

“Americans cherish their constitution; will this help or hinder Obama in addressing the controversy over firearms?”

“I think the second amendment of the US constitution provides some protections for firearms and was recently interpreted by our Supreme Court as providing an individual right to own a firearm. But I think that the myth of the second amendment actually exceeds the reality of the second amendment. If you look at that Supreme Court decision I mentioned, which was written by one of the most conservative Justices on the court, even
Justice Antonin Scalia left open a wide range of gun regulations.

“The President and Congress have a lot of leeway to enact responsible gun safety laws.”

“How will the hard compromises involved in dealing with the ‘fiscal cliff’ affect Obama’s efforts to revive the economy and create jobs?”

“The next big fight is going to be in February, where Congress has to pass a bill, a routine bill that for many decades was passed over and over again without controversy – or the United States will default on its debt, and that will cause catastrophic ripples throughout the world economy. Everyone understood that you don’t play chicken with the world economy. And just recently, for the first time in American history, in 2011, the House Republicans decided to use this as a leverage point. So I think that it’s very important that President Obama finds a way to break them of that habit.

“Because it’s one thing to say, ‘okay, we have disagreements, let’s have a negotiation, let’s decide what our fiscal policy is going to be’. I think it’s another thing altogether to engage in ‘hostage-taking’. That’s what’s going on here, and if they ‘shoot the hostage’, the whole world could be plunged into a catastrophic recession.”

“At this second inauguration, do you expect to see as much emotion and high spirits?”

“I think you’re still going to see some of that enthusiasm. But a lot of people who cast a vote for Obama [in 2012] I think were motivated as much by fear of the agenda that Romney was putting forth as they were by enthusiasm for Obama’s record. And they were happy to pull the lever for the president, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to see the same sort of numbers turn out in Washington when the inaugural happens.”

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