News

    Obama Faces Daunting Political Challenges at Home

    President Barack Obama
    President Barack Obama

    In the wake of his trip to Asia, U.S. President Barack Obama returns home to a challenging political agenda.  Among the issues that Mr. Obama will refocus on in the coming days is the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, an all-out push in the Senate for health care reform and continuing worries over job losses and the economy. 

    The upcoming decision on whether to send additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan is seen by many analysts as Mr. Obama's most important foreign policy decision to date.

    During his trip to Asia, the president told NBC News that the decision will come within the next several weeks and will lay out in clear terms what is at stake in the conflict and how he plans to succeed.

    "This decision will put us on a path towards ending the war," said President Obama.

    But public opinion polls suggest that Americans remain divided over the war in Afghanistan, including its cost and the length of the U.S. commitment there.

    A recent Quinnipiac University survey found that voters narrowly believe that continuing the war is the right thing, by a margin of 48 to 41 percent.  In addition, 47 percent of those asked support sending 40,000 more combat forces to Afghanistan, while 42 percent oppose it.  The 40,000 troop figure is one of several options reportedly being presented to the president by U.S. military commanders.

    Peter Brown is with the Quinnipiac poll.

    "Generally, enthusiasm for the war in Afghanistan is waning and support for the president's handling of it is dropping," said Peter Brown. "There are a number of Afghan-related questions where you have seen movement - all in the same direction - in which voters are more skeptical, less committed to the idea of a long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan."

    As important as the decision on Afghanistan is, it will compete for the president's attention along with his top two domestic priorities - improving the job market and following through on his promise for health care reform.

    "Every day, I wake up and I'm thinking how can I get those folks who are out of work now a job?, said Mr. Obama. "How can I make sure that the people who don't have health care can get health care?"

    In October, the national unemployment rate rose to 10.2 percent - the highest since 1983.

    Political analyst Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News says turning around the economy remains the president's top priority as he looks ahead to midterm congressional elections next year.

    "The White House has been saying the economy is everything and the reason we are going to be fine in 2010 is that the economy will be recovering," said Tom DeFrank. "Yet, the economic reality is that, I think, unemployment will probably still be above nine percent a year from now.  And that is never good for incumbents, never good."

    At the same time, the president's Democratic allies in Congress are trying to push a health care reform bill through the Senate - a major step in trying to enact the most sweeping health care changes in decades.

    This is the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada:

    "Opponents of reform and their defenders, I think - they can see the handwriting on the wall.  America is serious about reforming health care," he said. "For the first time since [former President] Harry Truman, we are going to be able to do that."

    But opponents like Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky remain nearly unanimous in fighting the health care proposal, arguing that its heavy cost and increased government role would be a mistake.

    "I think the public is saying to all of us, 'Quit passing thousand page bills; concentrate on trying to improve the economy'," he said. "And why are you trying to pass this health care bill?  I mean, I run into people every day who say, 'Please, don't do it.'"

    Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says the weak economy plus fears of a growing budget deficit have made it much more difficult to pass health care reform this year.

    "The American public is very concerned about the U.S. economy, about jobs and that frankly they still want change," said Stuart Rothenberg. "That is something very consistent over the past two and four years.  Except at the moment now, suddenly, it is the Republicans who benefit from that desire for change where it was the Democrats who benefitted in the previous two election cycles."

    The recent Quinnipiac poll found that President Obama's job approval rating was now at 48 percent - the first time it has slipped below the 50 percent threshold in the university's national survey.

    But the poll also found that 74 percent of voters still like President Obama, even though only 47 percent like most of his policies.

    Again, pollster Peter Brown:

    "They like him," he said. "Personally, Americans like Barack Obama.  They are a good deal less supportive of his policies.  But despite all the problems that the president may have in public opinion, it is very clear that Americans trust President Obama a lot more than they trust Republicans."

    The latest survey says voters trust the president more than Republicans to handle the health care issue by a margin of 45 to 36 percent.  
     


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.