News / USA

    Obama Shifts To Political Center

    President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address, Jan 25 2011
    President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address, Jan 25 2011

    Political analysts say President Barack Obama continued his move to the political center Tuesday with his State of the Union Address to Congress.  But experts say the prospects for bipartisanship and cooperation between the president and opposition Republicans remain uncertain.

    The annual State of the Union speech is always a combination of policy priorities and political theatre.  And this year’s speech had a twist with many lawmakers from both parties sitting together as a sign of solidarity in the wake of the recent shooting tragedy in Arizona in which six people were killed and several others wounded including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

    The national political climate seems to have cooled a bit since the Giffords shooting, and President Obama used the moment to make a fresh appeal for unity and cooperation.

    “We will move forward together or not at all, for the challenges we face are bigger than party and bigger than politics," said President Obama.

    New political reality in Washington

    Mr. Obama is dealing with a new political reality in Washington that includes Republican control of the House of Representatives and a diminished Democratic majority in the Senate.

    The singular Republican focus since last November’s election has been undoing the president’s health care law and shrinking the size of the federal government.

    Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan delivered the official Republican response to the president’s speech.

    “We are at a moment where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century," said Congressman Ryan.

    Tensions between Republicans and Tea Party

    But in another odd twist, there was a second response from Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who spoke on behalf of Tea Party groups around the country.

    “Because of you, Congress is responding and we are just beginning to start to undo the damage that has been done in the last few years," said Congresswoman Bachmann.

    The Tea Party movement played a critical role in mobilizing voters in the November midterm election that led to Republican gains in Congress.  But tensions between Tea Party supporters and Republican congressional leaders could emerge down the line if Congress fails to enact the deep budget cuts that Tea Party supporters are demanding.

    Political moderates saw signs of hope in the president’s State of the Union speech.  Republican political strategist Mark McKinnon is co-founder of a centrist group called No Labels that promotes bipartisan cooperation:

    “We think that there is a real thaw in the political climate in Washington and we think that thaw will lead to greater discussion and ultimately solutions to the problems we are facing," said McKinnon.

    McKinnon says political independents around the country seem to be backing President Obama again, in part because of bipartisan successes at the end of the last Congress and in part because of the restrained political mood in the wake of the shooting tragedy in Tucson, Arizona.

    “There is no question that he is being rewarded for moving to the [political] middle," he said. "He has moved to the center much more quickly than [former President] Bill Clinton did at this time in his presidency.  It took Bill Clinton about six months to a year to pivot to the center and President Obama has done it in just a matter of a couple of months after the midterm elections.”

    President Bill Clinton faced a similar political challenge when Democrats lost control of Congress to Republicans in 1994.  After a period of confrontation that included two government shutdowns, Mr. Clinton and congressional Republicans were able to find common ground on issues like trade and welfare reform.

    Other analysts believe the tempered political rhetoric will be a short-term phenomenon.

    John Fortier with the American Enterprise Institute expects both political parties to increasingly focus on the 2012 presidential election in the months to come.

    “Some smaller opportunities for the two parties to work together, but also looking ahead to that election where we know things are going to pick up in terms of the politics of things, where things will be harder to get done, and the two parties will be looking to have great contrasts for that 2012 election," said Fortier.

    Mr. Obama was at a low point in the polls shortly after last year’s midterm victories by Republicans.  But experts note how fast his poll numbers have rebounded in recent weeks, a lesson to both parties that in U.S. politics, change is often just around the corner.  


    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.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora