News

Obama Balances Political Coalitions on Range of Issues

U.S. President Barack Obama has charted a complicated political course over the next few months. Mr. Obama is rallying Democrats to support health-care reform in Congress. But he is also counting on Republican help for his new strategy on Afghanistan.

Multimedia

Audio

U.S. President Barack Obama has charted a complicated political course over the next few months.  Mr. Obama is rallying Democrats to support health-care reform in Congress.  But he is also counting on Republican help for his new strategy on Afghanistan. 

Each day seems to bring new challenges for a president who just marked his first 10 months in office.

Only days after announcing his new strategy on Afghanistan, which includes sending an additional 30,000 U.S. troops, Mr. Obama quickly refocused on the domestic economy and getting unemployed Americans back to work.

"But Americans who have desperately been looking for work for months, some of them maybe for a year or longer, they cannot wait and we will not wait," said President Obama. "We need to do everything we can right now to get our businesses hiring again so that our friends and our neighbors can go back to work."

The administration did get a small bit of good news with word that the unemployment rate last month had dropped from 10.2 to 10 percent.  But even the president's Democratic allies in Congress acknowledge that cutting the jobless rate quickly is an uphill battle and a lack of progress could leave them vulnerable during next year's congressional midterm elections.

The Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, says there is little debate about the top priority in the year ahead.

"Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs," said Nancy Pelosi. "It is all about jobs and as we work on these issues we always are working on the issue of jobs creation."

At the same time, the president is trying to secure congressional passage of a sweeping health care reform plan.  Republicans are nearly unanimous in their opposition to the multi-billion-dollar plan based on cost projections, which means the president must rely on Democratic unity to pass his signature domestic priority by early next year.

This is the House Republican leader, Congressman John Boehner of Ohio:

"The first thing that has to happen is that the job-killing agenda that the president supports that is moving through the Congress has to be stopped," said John Boehner.

A major political complication is the president's recently announced strategy on Afghanistan.  Some Democrats have criticized the plan, especially the deployment of tens of thousands of additional troops.

Among them is Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who appeared on ABC's 'This Week' program.

"We are operating at huge deficits in this country and the idea of continuing to spend for this war flies right in the face of the American people's priority to bring spending down," said Russ Feingold.

Republicans were generally supportive of the additional troop deployment, though several questioned the president's determination to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the middle of 2011.

The president's decision on Afghanistan comes at a time when opinion polls show the public is divided over the question of sending more troops and the future U.S. role in that country.

The president's own approval ratings have come down in recent months and now hover at about 50-percent.

Tom DeFrank is a longtime political observer and the Washington bureau chief for the New York Daily News.

"And he has done it in spite of the fact that Afghanistan has really polarized American public opinion," said Tom DeFrank. "Americans are basically divided, more or less evenly, on the wisdom of going ahead.  But at the same time he has muted the criticism from the Republicans."

One recent public-opinion survey suggests that Americans in general have become more isolationist in recent years and less willing to commit resources on missions abroad, especially given economic problems at home.

The poll was conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations and found that 49 percent of those asked agreed with the statement that the United States should mind its own business.

James Lindsay is the studies director for the Council on Foreign Relations:

"Which is why arguments about cost will become more important politically, both because people will want to know why we are not spending money here at home, and also the extent to which people are worried about the deficit," said James Lindsay.

Analysts say that for the foreseeable future the president will have to maintain a delicate and complicated political calculation.

Mr. Obama will continue to rely on Democrats to counter Republican objections over his health-care reform efforts.  At the same time, the president will reach out to Republicans for support on national security issues, particularly Afghanistan, where some members of his own Democratic Party have chosen to break with him.  
 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs