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.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora