President Obama’s 2nd term
State of the Union 2013: President Obama’s address to Congress (Transcript)
Why the Shutdown Looks So Bad for the GOP
Not only are they taking the blame, but the Republican party’s divisions, fissures, and personal animosities are taking center stage.
(Slate) During the Great Polling Disconnect of 2012, the Obama campaign, the press, and a number of pollsters thought that Barack Obama would win his second presidential election. Republicans and the Romney campaign were equally convinced the polls were flawed: The electorate would behave differently on Election Day.
There was a clear loser in that experiment. We’re facing a similar test now with the government shutdown. Public opinion polls show overwhelming opposition to the GOP strategy. Republican Sen. John McCain tweeted a Quinnipiac poll Tuesday morning that shows 72 percent of Americans oppose Congress “shutting down major activities of the federal government” as a way to stop the Affordable Care Act from going into effect.
For the conservatives pushing the showdown over the president’s health care plan, those numbers are either wrong or changeable. We’re about to find out which side is right.
Paul Heinbecker: Obama no foreign policy ace, but he’s not flunking it
(Globe & Mail) President Barack Obama’s critics are in full, happy cry over his performance on Syria and even his apologists are troubled by it. Vladimir Putin, the macho man of Siberia, has upstaged Mr. Obama, the hapless Hamlet on the Potomac, or so the narrative goes. But before we just write off Mr. Obama for flunking foreign policy, it is worth taking another look at his objectives, his constraints and his accomplishments. None is trivial. …
In broad strokes, Mr. Obama’s foreign policy is not the failure his critics contend. It has produced significant results and also suffered some important setbacks, both. Mr. Obama has been without peer in the poetry of leadership but less effective in the prose of statecraft. He has not flunked foreign policy but he has not aced it either, in part because he has inherited a population drawn to isolationism, a consequence of Bush’s foreign misadventures, and that is not likely to end soon. Mr. Obama’s critics and apologists will need to recalculate what they expect of American leadership in a new era and what they themselves are willing to contribute to global order and progress. Syria is a good example of what happens, and what does not happen, when the U.S. turns inwards.
From Newtown to Navy Yard, unpredictable calamities upend Obama’s second term
(WaPost) President Obama hoped to seize control of the news cycle Monday. Instead, events overtook him and his message again.
As reports broke of a deadly shooting rampage at the Navy Yard, three miles from the White House, the president was forced to alter his script. Over the past three weeks, his muddled response to reports of chemical weapons use in Syria has distracted the administration from looming fights with Congress over the budget and debt ceiling.
This time, Obama was forced to rewrite prepared remarks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where he was set to talk about the five-year anniversary of the stock market collapse and frame the fiscal debates ahead.
“We still don’t know all the facts, but we do know that several people have been shot and some have been killed,” Obama said solemnly, a collection of small-business owners standing awkwardly behind him on stage.
They had been invited to the White House to serve as symbolic reminders of the impact of economic policy on ordinary Americans as the president launched a week of events intended as a pivot away from Syria.
DAVID ROTHKOPF: There’s Something to Be Said for the Peacemaker
How Obama’s instincts actually prevailed in the Syria deal.
(Foreign Policy) “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Crack-Up. When he first set these words to paper in 1936, it’s pretty certain that he did not imagine they would one day become the core foreign-policy principle of a 21st-century president. Yet because they have, we have been reminded of another important lesson about first-rate minds, second-rate ones, and minds of every quality: Character trumps intellectual ambivalence every time.
Barack Obama has been afflicted by the ability to see multiple sides of any issue since he took office. His Afghanistan policy initiative was, until recently, the outstanding example of this characteristic. After a lengthy internal debate, he presented in one speech both the decision to escalate U.S. involvement in that country and the announcement that the United States would be leaving on a certain date. … You might see this kind of vacillation as a sign of confusion rather than a manifestation of a first-rate intelligence. Indeed, it’s almost certainly a bit of both. But even when doubts persist, underlying instincts continue to drive policy toward its ultimate outcomes.
Maureen Dowd: Bill Schools Barry on Syria
NOT only is President Obama leading from behind, now he’s leading from behind Bill Clinton. … Citing his own experiences in Kosovo and Bosnia, Clinton said that if you blamed a poll for a lack of action, “you’d look like a total wuss.” He added that “when people are telling you ‘no’ in these situations, very often what they’re doing is flashing a giant yellow light” of caution. … That is the problem for Obama: selling it. The silver-tongued campaigner has turned out to be a leaden salesman in the Oval Office. On issues from drones to gun control to taxes to Syria, the president likes to cite public opinion polls to justify his action or inaction. He seems incapable of getting in front of issues and shaping public and Congressional opinion with a strong selling job.
After the whistle was blown on the National Security Agency’s No Call Left Behind program, the president said he would welcome an ex post facto debate. But now that polls indicate that the overwhelming American attitude is “Spy on me,” Obama has dropped the subject.
Too bad. We’ll see what Americans have to say when someone in the mold of Dick Cheney or Bob Haldeman gets his hands on all that personal data; the West Wing has been known to drive its occupants nuts.
Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay: The Real Obama’s Bent on Killing Innocent People with Remote-controlled Drones
In conclusion, let us say that the Obama administration should be leading international efforts to outlaw the widespread use of weaponized unmanned drones, just as gas warfare and nuclear warfare have been outlawed. Sadly, President Barack Obama is rather promoting their use, making the world an even more dangerous place. Such weapons, like nuclear bombs, are bound to spread and what’s good for the goose may also be good for the gander. These weapons could come to haunt the U.S. itself in the future. They don’t increase U.S. security in the long run. They rather reduce it. —Nobody should have the right to kill just anybody, anywhere in the world. This is the stuff of tyranny.
The Obama Surveillance Revelations Are Pushing Liberals Over the Edge
(The Atlantic) Progressives are mad as hell at the administration when it comes to civil liberties, and they’re not going to take it anymore. …
The left is not necessarily unified in its outrage, and Jilani acknowledged some PCCC members have expressed dismay that the organization is turning its fire so harshly on the president. Similarly, in Congress, the issue has scrambled the partisan equation; hawkish liberals like Senator Dianne Feinstein have defended the administration, while civil libertarians on both sides of the aisle, from Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley to Republican Senator Mike Lee, have criticized it.
A Pew poll released Monday found majorities of Americans approve of call tracking and disapprove of email monitoring. The 41 percent of Americans who disapprove of secret NSA phone-record collection included 34 percent of Democrats — about half the proportion who disapproved of surveillance tactics in the Bush Administration.
Jennifer Rubin: Unwarranted hysteria over Verizon data collection
(WaPost) As to the Verizon call-record collection, there, frankly, is nothing illegal or extraordinary. The actual calls are not monitored and before any specific person’s pattern of calls or the content thereof can be surveilled, probable cause and individualized suspicion must be articulated to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. The entire program is under the auspices of the FISA court, and permission to continue the program must be renewed every three months. The Senate and House intelligence committee members have been fully briefed. According to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the program helped break up a significant terrorist plot.
Tom Donilon Resigning: Obama National Security Adviser To Be Replaced By Susan Rice
Rice’s new post as national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation. A White House official confirmed the foreign policy personnel changes Wednesday morning ahead of a planned announcement by the president in the afternoon. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the changes before they were publicly announced.
Obama will also name Samantha Power, a human rights expert and former White House adviser, to replace Rice at the United Nations. Power left the White House earlier this year.
Power won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for her book “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” which examined U.S. foreign policy toward genocide in the 20th century. She is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School.
Meet the Three Judges Who Could Bring the Senate to Its Knees
The White House Rose Garden is rarely a scene of insurrection. But this morning the president used the setting for phase one of a strategy that could end with Senate Democrats exercising the “nuclear option” to reset rules around the use of the filibuster. Simply by saying three names.
The plan goes something like this. At the event (details below), Obama nominated three judges to fill three vacancies on an appeals court serving Washington, D.C. (The D.C. Circuit, as it’s known, has broad power to review federal regulations, making it an extremely powerful bench — and one from which four sitting Supreme Court Justices have come.) The Constitution mandates that the Senate vote on those nominees, which under normal circumstances would likely mean that they’d be approved. After all, 54 Democrats and Democrat-friendly independents is a larger number than 45 Republicans.
But these are not normal circumstances. Obama has nominated people to fill those three vacancies before, only to see the nominations blocked by a Republican filibuster. In the current Senate, a nominee needs 60 votes — enough to end any filibuster and be approved. With the Democrats losing a senator yesterday, reaching that number just became harder.
Now that Obama has nominated three people at once, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can bring them before the whole Senate simultaneously. The hope is that, by doing so, the Republicans would be less able to justify filibusters for all three, given that it’s meant to be a tool employed in rare circumstances.
Obama drone oversight proposal prompts concern over ‘kill courts’
Human rights groups wary after president asks Congress to establish special court or board to authorise legal drone action
Obama’s Post-9/11 World
While the president said nothing new about drone strikes, he appears ready to take real risks to close Gitmo.
(Slate) President Obama’s speech today on U.S. counterterrorism policy was actually two speeches in one. The first outlined a supposedly new, restrictive policy on drone strikes that was neither new nor restrictive. The second called for shutting down the Guantánamo detention center—not a new position for the president but the revival of a long-dormant one, unfurled in blazing colors along with a vision of a genuinely new way of approaching global terrorism.
Obama speech: ‘Perpetual war will prove self-defeating’ – as it happened
• Obama makes speech on future of counter-terrorism
• President defended controversial drones programme
• Announced measures to restart Guantanamo releases
Obama defends US drone attacks
President says maintaining policy overseas is part of US being “at a crossroads” in defeat of terrorism.
Poll: Congress Not Overreaching on Obama Scandals
(Newsmax) A new poll found that Americans by a large margin believe that Congress is not overreacting to the burgeoning scandals plaguing the Obama administration.
I Was Promised a Cover-Up
(Slate) The White House Benghazi emails reveal a smoking gun. But it wasn’t the one that Republicans set out to find.
James Carville: This is all over in 30 days
Is James Carville right, or is this the more accurate view?
Obama’s dangerous new narrative
(Politico) Obama’s critics now have a narrative — a way of connecting four discrete episodes to a larger point about this president’s leadership style and values. In other words, they didn’t merely happen on his watch but were in important ways caused by his watch.
Analysis: Controversies give Obama new governing headaches
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama learned on Monday what can happen to presidents caught up in allegations of scandal: they have to address them instead of anything else.
… the president had to interrupt his news conference with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain to answer questions about the widening investigation into the Benghazi attacks in Libya and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups.
By the end of the day he was facing a third major problem when the Associated Press said the Department of Justice had secretly seized some of its reporters’ phone records last year.
Democrats Fear Uninsured Won’t Sign Up for Obamacare
(Newsmax) Healthcare reform should be the signature Democratic achievement of President Barack Obama’s presidency.
But with “Obamacare” five months from show time, Democrats are worried about whether enough Americans will sign up to make the sweeping healthcare overhaul a success – and what failure might mean for Congress heading into the 2016 presidential race.
Some of the law’s main advocates fear that not enough of America’s 49 million uninsured will know about health coverage offered in their own states. Even if they do, new insurance plans may not be attractive to young, healthy consumers needed to offset an expected influx of older and sicker patients.
Obama’s ’14 tool kit
Why it’s so important for the president and his party to force the GOP to vote on his agenda now
(Salon.com) … it makes sense for the White House to push hard now and test just how far the GOP is willing to budge in its somewhat confused current state. But there’s probably a longer-term calculation at work too, one rooted in a recognition that there’s only so much Obama can achieve with Republicans running the House – and that there’s only so far those Republicans will ultimately go.
Chances are that next year’s election will leave the GOP in charge of the House. But if Democrats campaign on the issues Obama is now pushing and fare better than expected – suffering minimal losses, or maybe even gaining a seat or two – it would generate new momentum for his policy goals. And that momentum just might be enough to help Obama fight off the dreaded lame duck label until late in his second term.
President Obama’s State of the Union: Aggressive
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech will be less a presidential olive branch than a congressional cattle prod.
(Politico) That strategy has its dangers: If Americans perceive Obama as too partisan, he’ll lose a serious share of his personal popularity. Yet he needs to burn political capital — and keep the GOP on the defensive — to force the opposition into accepting more taxes and fewer budget cuts as part of a deal to avert the $1.2 trillion-dollar sequester cuts looming on March 1.
We are always great fans of the weekly review by (David) Brooks & (Mark) Shields. This week’s is particularly pertinent to how President Obama’s second term may evolve and the future of the Republican Party.
Kerry sails through Senate confirmation hearing on secretary of state bid
(WaPost) His confirmation to be secretary of state virtually assured, Sen. John F. Kerry sketched a pragmatist’s view of the world Thursday, telling his Senate colleagues that the war in Syria may grind on indefinitely and that Iran may rebuff peaceful efforts to scale back its nuclear program.
Kerry’s nearly four-hour confirmation hearing covered his views on topics new and old, including the Middle East, China’s appetite for African energy and resources, North Korean gulags and his beloved Boston Red Sox.
On-Screen the Second Time Around, the Silly and the Sublime
An entertaining review of the television coverage of Inauguration Day.
(Reuters) – A confident President Barack Obama kicked off his second term on Monday with an impassioned call for a more inclusive America that rejects partisan rancor and embraces immigration reform, gay rights and the fight against climate change.
Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol was filled with traditional pomp and pageantry, but it was a scaled-back inauguration compared to the historic start of his presidency in 2009 when he swept into office on a mantle of hope and change as America’s first black president.
Despite expectations tempered by lingering economic weakness and a divided Washington, Obama delivered a preview of the priorities he intends to pursue – essentially, a reaffirmation of core liberal Democratic causes – declaring Americans “are made for this moment” and must “seize it together.”
Barack Obama is from the government, and he is here to help
(The Economist|Lexington) WHAT Barack Obama wants to do with four more years in office is not so very mysterious. He wants to complete the Great Society project of such progressive forefathers as both Roosevelts and Lyndon Johnson, and make it sustainable in an America that faces unprecedented global competition. How he plans to do that, when he must share power with fiercely hostile Republicans in Congress for the foreseeable future, is a more interesting question.
Mr Obama’s inaugural speech, delivered this morning beneath a bright, chilly Washington sky, offered a remarkably stark answer. He plans to confront Republicans, co-opt their most cherished beliefs about American exceptionalism and individualism, pin them into a corner with the power of public opinion and—in the longer-term—to marginalise them by building his party a progressive coalition from such diverse groups as women, ethnic minorities, gays, the young, immigrants and environmentalists.
President Obama, Vice President Biden Sworn in for Second Term
(ABC News) President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden today officially embarked on their second term, taking the Constitutionally mandated oath of office in two separate private ceremonies inside their homes.
Shortly before noon in the Blue Room of the White House, Obama raised his right hand, with his left on a family Bible, reciting the oath administrated (sic) by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Biden was sworn in earlier today by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic to administer a presidential oath, in a ceremony at his official residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory.
Because Jan. 20 — the official date for a new presidential term — falls on a Sunday this year, organizers delayed by one day the traditional public inauguration ceremony and parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Issue Guide: U.S. Presidential Transition
(Council on Foreign Relations) President Barack Obama begins his second term facing turnover in top foreign policy and national security cabinet positions amid stiff challenges in the Middle East and Asia, and on fiscal policy. The following materials offer a guide to understanding the issues and policymaking challenges for Washington.
The Second Coming
What can the 44th president really achieve in his second term? Here are 10 ideas.
(Foreign Policy January|February 2013) If you were to print out all the white papers, op-eds, and think-tank reports urging U.S. President Barack Obama to do this or that in his second term, the sheer amount of paper produced would probably require chopping down the Amazon rain forest. There’s a reason these well-intentioned ideas generally sit on the shelf: They’re unrealistic. Wave a magic wand, and the president can do everything from make peace in the Middle East to reshape the entire world economy in America’s favor. What follows is something different: advice he can actually implement.