President Obama officially started his second term yesterday. To get a picture of the president's way forward it is necessary to look at his accomplishments and failures of his first term. His second term starts with deep divisions in Washington.
President Obama entered the oval office, after a resounding victory with his "Hope and Change" campaign. He vowed that he would tackle politics as usual in Washington. He affirmed that the United States was not about red states or blue states, republicans or democrats, but the United States. President Obama entered the oval office with a 67% approval rating. As he starts his second term his approval rating is 51%
Eight years of the Bush Administration had left the United States entangled in two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, a financial melt down, an unpopular prison in Guantanamo, a dipping economy and the accompanying high unemployment. To say that the president faced an almost impossible task would be an understatement.
At the end of his first term, the US still faced high unemployment, hovering just under 8%. There was an unprecedented number of people on food stamps. Guantanamo had not been closed and military tribunals were once again authorized. The war in Iraq had been ended and Afghanistan was nearing a conclusion.
President Barack Obama begins his second term with one thing that hasn’t changed: the unemployment rate.
When Obama first took office in January 2009, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. Today the unemployment rate is once again at 7.8 percent. CBS DC
The Middle East had experienced an Arab Spring, with results still to be determined. The game about Iran's nuclear weapon development continued and was still unresolved. Egypt is in a transition period, with results still to be determined. The presidency was also overshadowed by the embassy attack in Benghazi and the lack of details on Operation Fast and Furious. In addition there was the green energy scandal, with the administration being accused of funneling funds to its campaign supporters.
Obama's First Term Accomplishments and Failures
President Obama entered office with little legislative experience at the federal level, although he spent four years as an Illinois Senator. Most of that time was spend campaigning for the presidency. He won the democratic primaries by defeating a sure bet, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
On his first day in office he signed an executive order, which ordered Guantanamo to be closed by the end of the year. This initiative failed and could not find support by Democrats and Republicans alike.
His next move was his Cairo speech, which Republican pundits depicted as Obama's apology tour. He was accused of bowing to the Saudi King and not visiting Israel as president.
Taking a look at Obama's campaign promises here is how the president fared:
1. Closing Guantanamo terrorist prison during his first term in office - failed
2. Ending the war in Iraq and refocusing efforts on Afghanistan with an eventual draw down - Iraq achieved, Afghanistan in progress of transition to Afghan control.
3. Health-care overhaul. This has been partially achieved with the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act. There are likely still to be a number of court challenges on this issue.
4. Environment. Obama vowed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050 and promised to invest billions of dollars into green energy projects. This is incomplete and Obama ran into a brick wall with an effort to introduce a carbon tax. The EPA has issued a myriad of restrictive regulations, which have hurt the coal industry. This will be on the president's agenda during his second term.
5. Economy. The president vowed that a stimulus package would restore the economy and leave the unemployment rate well below 8%, with shovel ready jobs. On the economy the president failed miserably. His second term starts with an unemployment rate at 7.9% and and with slow economic growth in the forecast for some time. The debt has reached an all time high of $16.4 Trillion and the raising of the debt ceiling is once again required. The country still operates with a $1.1 Trillion deficit.
6. Transparency. Obama has promised an open and transparent government. While some information is published on the White house website, there are still too many deals made behind closed doors.
The White House now regularly releases visitor logs, and Obama has signed a law enacting some whistle blower protections, but the Justice Department continues to prosecute federal employees who are considered whistle blowers. The Food and Drug Administration has also come under fire for using electronic surveillance to spy on the personal e-mail accounts of whistle blowers. Washington Post
Obama made two appointments the Supreme Court, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, in 2009 and Elena Kagan. For the first time the Supreme Court has three women.
The Way Forward
The president has demonstrated since winning a second term that he is more confident and ready to take on the Republican house. For now he has been able to keep Republicans on the defensive, but at some point he will have to try and get their support.
During his second term he will be tackling big issues, such as gun control, comprehensive immigration reform and of course an attempt to get the economy back on track. Deficit cuts will be high on the agenda and the president will have the mid term election in mind.
His second term will determine his legacy. How he handles the important issues, co-operates with Congress will define his presidency At one time in Washington courage was the ability to compromise on the big issues, in today's environment courage is digging in your heels. Unfortunately this will not be helpful to the nation. Ideology can kill the cat.
President Obama's Inaugural Speech Full Text
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com