U.S. post 20 Jan 2009

Written by  //  January 20, 2010  //  Environment & Energy, Politics, Public Policy, U.S.  //  No comments

 Next week, the speech will be pretty much forgotten, and people will scratch their heads to remember a single quote from it. Yet if (and it’s a huge if) 2009 should eventually turn out to have been the date when the United States renounced the accumulated policies of the Bush years, regained an honourable place in the wider world and returned to the course of its “better history”, then we’ll reread Obama’s inaugural and discover how subtly audacious he was being. It’s already original – and not so much in spite of, but because of, its unoriginal language. It might, just conceivably, be seen as revolutionary. – The Guardian’s Jonathan Raban The golden trumpet
Q&A: Obama on His First Year in Office
… we’ve still lost 7 million jobs over the last two years. People who are out of work or have seen their 401(k)s diminish or their hours reduced understandably are frustrated when they see big banks getting money for a problem that they helped cause. And when you see the unemployment rate spike to 10%, it was inevitable and justifiable that the political climate would become very difficult. So health care was done against the backdrop of what was already going to be a tough political climate.
Having said that, there is no doubt that the process for doing big, important things in this country has become far more difficult because of the way Congress is working right now. I came in expressing a strong spirit of bipartisanship, and what was clear was that even in the midst of crisis, there were those who made decisions based on a quick political calculus rather than on what the country needed. The classic example being me heading over to meet with the House Republican caucus to discuss the stimulus and finding out that [House minority leader John] Boehner had already released a statement saying, We’re going to vote against the bill before we’ve even had a chance to exchange ideas.
Judging Obama’s First Year, Issue by Issue On the anniversary of Barack Obama’s historic Inauguration, TIME takes a look at what the President has been able to accomplish and what he still hopes to do
20 January
Obama: Seat Brown Before Moving Ahead on Health Care Bill
“Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country: the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office,” Mr. Obama said, according to excerpts released by the network. “People are angry, they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years. If there’s one thing that I regret this year, [it] is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values.”
Coakley concedes race: five lessons from her campaign
(CSM) … political analysts are already drawing lessons for the midterm elections later this year.
G.O.P. Senate Victory Stuns Democrats
(NYT) That seat, held for nearly half a century by Mr. Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate, will now be held for the next two years by a Republican who has said he supports waterboarding as an interrogation technique for terrorism suspects, opposes a federal cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions and opposes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants unless they leave the country. It was a sharp swing of the pendulum, but even Democratic voters said they wanted the Obama administration to change direction. (Politico) Forces of change now target President Obama (Economist) A stunning Republican victory in a Senate race in Massachusetts deals a blow to Barack Obama; (WSJ) The Message of Massachusetts A crisis is a terrible thing to exploit. (NYT) Man in the news: Scott Brown
18 January
What’s the matter with Massachussetts?
(The Economist) If Ms Coakley loses to Scott Brown in Tuesday’s election, though, it will be because the working-class voters who have suffered most in this recession voted against her.
17 January
Massachusetts Race Tests Staying Power of Democrats
This weekend, Democrats are struggling to hang on to a seat held by Mr. Kennedy for 46 years in one of the most enthusiastically Democratic states in the country. Conservatives are enjoying a grass-roots resurgence, and Republicans are talking about taking back the House in November.
Paul Krugman: President Obama’s troubles result from misjudgments: the stimulus was too small; banking policy wasn’t tough enough; and he didn’t shelter himself from criticism. The conventional wisdom seems to be that President Obama tried to do too much — in particular, that he should have put health care on one side and focused on the economy. I disagree. The Obama administration’s troubles are the result not of excessive ambition, but of policy and political misjudgments.
15 January
Bill Clinton Rallies With Coakley
Former President Bill Clinton, along with a veritable Who’s-who of Massachusetts Democrats rallied hundreds of supporters at a Boston hotel Friday afternoon, urging them to get out the vote amid signs that the race for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s seat is too close to call.
12 January
Poll: Obama’s Ratings on Health Care, Economy Drop Lower
Fewer Americans now approve of the way that President Barack Obama is handling the economy and health care, pushing his overall job rating below the crucial 50 percent mark, according to the latest CBS News poll.
7 January
Departures Shake Democrats
Midterm Challenges Spur Exit of Dodd and Dorgan; GOP Plans a Recruitment Drive
(WSJ) A string of unexpected retirements by several senior Democrats this week demonstrated the daunting obstacles facing President Barack Obama’s party in this year’s midterm elections.
31 December
US Economy Likely to Determine Obama’s 2010 Agenda
(VOA news) Economy, war in Afghanistan and November’s congressional elections may determine whether president is able to advance his agenda
Gail Collins: That Was the Year That Was
… now it also feels as if Barack Obama has been president forever. I’m beginning to wonder if in the 21st century, White House years are going to be like dog years in reverse. Every one is equivalent to seven or eight in the normal human calendar.
I personally think Obama has been doing a good job, all things considered. The economy is still depressing, but that’s an improvement over mind-bendingly terrifying. The rest of the world likes us better, and whenever the president goes overseas he seems to be able to nudge the other countries toward a little progress on some issue on which they had been hopelessly stuck.
25 December
The Obama Way
He campaigned as a postpartisan healer who would change the cynical ways of Washington — as a foe of both back-room deals and ideology-as-usual. But he’s governed as a conventional liberal who believes in the existing system, knows how to work it and accepts the limitations it imposes on him.
Absent political constraints, Obama would probably side with the liberal line on almost every issue. It’s just that he’s more acutely conscious of the limits of his powers and less willing to start fights that he might lose than many supporters would prefer. In this regard, he most resembles Ronald Reagan and Edward Kennedy. Both were highly ideological politicians who trained themselves to work within the system. Both preferred cutting deals to walking away from the negotiating table.
The upside of this approach is obvious: It gets things done. Between the stimulus package, the pending health care bill and a new raft of financial regulations, Obama will soon be able to claim more major legislative accomplishments than any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson.
The downside, though, is that sometimes what gets done isn’t worth doing. The assumption that a compromised victory is better than no victory at all can produce phony achievements — like last week’s “global agreement” on climate change — and bloated, ugly legislation. And using cynical means to progressive ends (think of the pork-laden stimulus bill or the frantic vote-buying that preceded this week’s Senate health care votes) tends to confirm independent voters’ worst fears about liberal government: that it’s a racket rigged to benefit privileged insiders and a corrupt marketplace floated by our tax dollars.
11 December
Paranormal Flexibility
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a report on Wednesday that is bound to stir conversation about the increasingly complicated cacophony of spirituality in America — a mash-up of traditional faiths, fantasy and mythology.
Entitled “Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths,” the report points out that many Americans are now choosing to “blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs” and that “sizable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups” said that they have had supernatural experiences, like encountering ghosts. Read the Report
25 February
Obama Vows, ‘We Will Rebuild’ and ‘Recover’ ; Transcript
14 February
DC Journalists Love GOP Obstructionists, But Americans Don’t
[According to latest polls] The American public looked at DC, they saw the Democrats trying to do something, and they liked what they saw. People who are deeply worried about staying employed and taking care of their families do not seem to have the universal high regard for House Republicans who stood together to oppose helping them out that the DC establishment do.
14 February
Frank Rich: They Sure Showed That Obama
Just as in the presidential campaign, Obama has once again outwitted the punditocracy and the opposition. The same crowd that said he was a wimpy hope-monger who could never beat Hillary or get white votes was played for fools again.
13 February
Hardened Obama plans new fights
(Politico) Obama’s call for compromise and change in how Washington does its business was quickly rebuffed by both parties in Congress. The Washington climate, which led to a party-line vote on the stimulus, has big political implications: It means that Obama will have sole ownership — whether that means credit or blame — for all the massive changes in government he envisions over the coming year.
February 2009
BACK TO THE FUTURE: FROM ROOSEVELT TO OBAMA
Gil Troy
(Policy Options) As Barack Obama took office as the 44th president of the United States on January 20, comparisons abounded to the 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The economic context was obvious — Obama inherits the worst economic crisis since FDR took office in 1933. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address, in which he famously declared, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” was an equally obvious standard of excellence. But beyond rhetorical benchmarks, how did Roosevelt rise to the occasion in the 20th century, and what historical lessons can Obama draw from FDR in the 21st century? Contributing Writer Gil Troy, author and presidential historian at McGill University, offers some reflections about then and now.
29 January
What’s Missing from Davos: The Americans
“Today, investment banks — the pride of Wall Street — have virtually ceased to exist.”
VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian Prime Minister, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; he noted that at last year’s conference, American delegates had emphasized the U.S. economy’s fundamental stability.
Obama vows to listen to Muslims
(FT) Mr Obama, who in his inaugural address last week promised the Muslim world a “new way forward based on mutual respect and mutual interest”, told the Al Arabiya television channel that his administration wanted to listen to the Muslim world and re-examine America’s “preconceptions” towards the region.
Muslim world reacts to closure of Guantanamo

(IPS) – While the decision of President Barack Obama to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay Cuba, and end the practice of interrogation techniques that violate international law, made front page news throughout the United States, press reaction in the Middle East was far less extensive – but generally favourable.
Obama acts to reverse Bush climate moves
(Reuters) Obama has spent his first few days in office overturning his predecessor’s policies. On Thursday, he signed an order to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year and he lifted restrictions on Friday on U.S. government funding for groups that provide abortion services abroad.
Shortly after his victory in the November 4 election, Obama reiterated his commitment to bringing the United States firmly back into the fold of nations trying to reach a global agreement to limit emissions once the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol runs out at the end of 2012.
Obama lifts global gag rule

In a statement timed to generate minimal publicity, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the reversal of a long-standing policy that prevented the U.S. from funding any groups that provided abortions to women or advised women on abortion as a health care option. Obama additionally pledged to work with Congress to provide funding to the United Nations Population Fund. In a statement released by the White House, Obama said, “By resuming funding to UNFPA, the U.S. will be joining 180 other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries.” The Nation (1/25)
Frank Rich reflects on the Inaugural Address and implications for all Americans
Great Limits Come With Great Power, Ex-Candidate Finds
Mr. Obama spent his first few days in office rolling out an orchestrated series of executive orders intended to signal that he would take the nation in a very different direction from his predecessor, George W. Bush. Yet he wrestled with fresh challenges at every turn, found some principles hard to consistently apply and showed himself willing to be pragmatic — at the risk of irking some supporters who had their hearts set on idealism.

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