News / USA

Obama Shift To Center Pays Dividends

President Barack Obama arrives at Hickam Air Force base in Honolulu, Hawaii, for a holiday vacation, Dec. 23, 2010
President Barack Obama arrives at Hickam Air Force base in Honolulu, Hawaii, for a holiday vacation, Dec. 23, 2010

Multimedia

Audio

In U.S. politics, both sides in the ongoing domestic policy debates are taking a break over the Christmas holiday, following an unexpectedly productive final session of the outgoing Congress. When they return in January they will face the new political reality of Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and having an increased minority in the Senate.

What a difference a few weeks makes in President Obama's political fortunes. Shortly after the Republican rout in the November midterm congressional elections, Obama acknowledged he and his fellow Democrats got a shellacking at the polls.

It was a much more upbeat President Obama, however, who spoke to reporters at the White House after a productive so-called lame duck session of Congress that included dozens of Democrats who were defeated in November.

"If there is any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it is that we are not doomed to endless gridlock," said Obama. "We have shown in the wake of the November elections that we have the capacity not only to make progress, but to make progress together. And I am not naïve. I know there will be tough fights in the months ahead. But my hope heading into the New Year is that we can continue to heed the message of the American people and hold to a spirit of common purpose in 2011 and beyond."

The list of compromise agreements includes extending tax cuts for all Americans first approved by President George W. Bush, ratification of a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and ending a long-standing policy that prevents homosexuals from openly serving in the U.S. military.

Not everyone was happy. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina complained that Democrats rammed through a number of measures in the waning days of the session, especially the law that overturns the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy that had barred gays and lesbians from openly serving in the armed forces.

"To those who are pushing this process, it is not appreciated," said Graham. "It is not appreciated by your fellow senators and I do no think it is going to be appreciated by the men and women who are going to have to live under this kind of change."

Democrats were eager to celebrate their legislative victories, fully aware that they will lose their House majority in January.

Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer is the number-two ranking Democrat in the House. He said both parties in Congress were able to find common ground once the heat of the November election faded.

"I think the fact that the politics are somewhat over," said Hoyer. "They are never fully over, but the election is not facing us and people were prepared to come together and work together for progress."

Perhaps the most important moment came when the president agreed to a compromise with Republicans on extending the Bush era tax cuts for all Americans, even the very wealthy. As a presidential candidate, Obama had promised to let the tax cuts for the wealthy expire, and his change of heart angered liberal Democrats.

Tom DeFrank is a longtime observer of U.S. politics and Washington Bureau Chief for the New York Daily News. He said, "Had Obama not been able to cut this deal, he would have looked helpless. He at least lives to fight another day now. And I believe there are some, and I am one of them, who believe that if Obama somehow finds a way to get reelected in 2012, we will all be saying that the seeds of that comeback began with this (tax) deal."

The president's willingness to compromise on the tax deal and his ability to win at least some Republican support for the START Treaty with Russia and repeal of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy is a sign of a political shift to the center, said political analyst Richard Wolffe.

"The middle ground, these independent voters who do not like partisan politics, are his group," said Wolffe. "They backed him in 2008 and they turned strongly against Democrats in 2010. He has got to win those back if he is going to get reelected, so speaking to them, as well as obviously to Democrats, is very important."

Analysts do question how long this newfound willingness to compromise will last, especially given the new political reality in Washington come January when Republicans take control of the House and increase their minority in the Senate.

Some newly elected Republicans are eager for a showdown with the president over the federal budget, spurred on by conservative Tea Party activists who helped elect them in November.

Political strategist Mark Penn, a former adviser to former president Bill Clinton, expects Obama to continue to position himself as a political centrist as he looks toward his own re-election battle in 2012.

"The president, I think, in moving to the center, has got to be able to say to the left and the right, that 'look, the voters want to see some accomplishments here and that if we fail to bring accomplishments, no one is going to be the winner here.'"

The first big test for President Obama in the New Year will come later in January when he delivers the annual State of Union Address to a joint session of Congress.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

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.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid