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Obama has long work list to tackle when he returns

By Charles Babington

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:33 a.m. HST, Dec 25, 2012

WASHINGTON >>  It's hardly a secret that Barack Obama, like every president no doubt, muses about his ultimate legacy and spot in the presidential pantheon. He approaches his second term confronting tough and shifting challenges that will play big roles in shaping the rest of his presidency and his eventual place in history.

In the coming months, Obama will have to decide where to be ambitious, where to be cautious, and where to buy time.

He draws political strength from his surprisingly easy re-election in a bad economy. It's partly offset, however, by Republicans' continued control of the House, plus their filibuster powers in the Senate.

Some of the big issues awaiting the president's decisions are familiar, long-simmering problems. They include immigration and the need for a tenable balance between taxes, spending and borrowing.

Another issue, gun control, jumped to the national agenda's top tier this month following the massacre of first-graders and teachers in a Connecticut school. And the issue of climate change remains unresolved.

Veteran politicians and presidential historians say it's almost impossible for Obama to "go big" on all these issues. Indeed, it might prove difficult to go big on even one. While some counsel caution, others urge the president to be as bold and ambitious as possible.

"Americans are yearning for leadership," said Gil Troy, a presidential scholar at McGill University.

As a president dealing with policy, he said, Obama has generally failed to give "that visionary, powerful address that we came to know and love and expect in the 2008 campaign."

Rather than let Congress take the lead on big issues, as it did in drafting the 2009 health care overhaul, Obama should be more forceful in pushing new legislation or using his executive powers to bypass Congress where possible, Troy said.

"The gun control issue is a major opportunity for Obama to make his mark on history -- and solve a problem that has frustrated Democrats for decades," he added.

Other presidential historians, however, think Obama is severely constrained by political realities. They say he will have to carefully pick and choose which goals to emphasize in his second four years.

"I see Obama as almost uniquely handcuffed by circumstances," said John Baick of Western New England University. The number of big, unresolved problems facing the nation, coupled with a deeply divided public and Congress, he said, leave Obama with fewer viable options than most presidents have enjoyed.

At best, Baick said, the U.S. government "is a gigantic cruise liner, and the most he can do is keep us from hitting ice bergs."

For instance, Baick said, "if he goes big on gun control, then it's 1994 all over again."

Then-President Bill Clinton pushed an assault weapons ban through the Democratic-led Congress that year, prompting fierce pushback from gun-rights groups. Clinton later would credit the NRA with shifting the House majority to the GOP for the first time in 40 years. However, other factors -- including a House bank scandal -- played big roles, too.

Paul Rego, a political scientist at Messiah College in Grantham, Penn., largely agrees with Baick.

"While President Obama does not face the same cataclysmic events that Abraham Lincoln faced, or that FDR encountered in the form of the Great Depression and World War II, his challenges are many and significant," Rego said in an email.

He said Obama "faces a hurdle that neither Lincoln nor Roosevelt had to overcome during the tumultuous years of their respective presidencies: divided government." Today's Democrats and Republicans differ so sharply about government's proper role, Rego said. He said that Obama's job "is actually harder than that of his most illustrious predecessors."

Politicians of all stripes say Obama's first priority is to resolve the deep partisan divide over tax-and-spending issues, exemplified by repeated impasses over two years that led to this week's showdown on the "fiscal cliff."

An even higher-risk conflict may arise in a few months. Congress again must either raise the federal debt ceiling or see the government default on its loans.

Beyond that, lawmakers and interest groups are watching for signs of how hard Obama might push to restrict firearms and expand illegal immigrants' rights.

Obama said last Wednesday that gun control will be a central issue in his second term. "I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this," he said of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass killings.

The president named an interagency task force to recommend anti-violence legislation within weeks. The strategy gives him room to distance himself somewhat from its recommendations if he wants, even though he named Vice President Joe Biden to chair the panel.

Americans' affinity for firearms runs deep, and many political activists think Obama could have more sweeping success with immigration changes.

He won a big majority of Hispanics' votes in both his elections. The trend alarms Republican strategists, who fear their party won't win another presidential election until it repairs its bad relations with Latinos.

With Democrats and Republicans increasingly aware of Hispanics' growing political clout, "this might be an historic opportunity," Troy said.

Chris Dolan, a political scientist at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, agrees. He said he expects Obama to be "incredibly ambitious on comprehensive immigration reform."

The effort, Dolan said, could "build a lasting Democratic support group. You can't do that with gun control."

Still, opposition to granting citizenship to illegal immigrants runs deep in many circles, especially the Republican Party's base. Bids for "comprehensive immigration reform" have gone nowhere in Congress in recent years.

Several advocacy groups want Obama to make the most of his executive powers to enact measures that don't require congressional action.

The Migration Policy Institute earlier this year made several suggestions regarding immigrants. They included "establishing uniform enforcement priorities," defining "what constitutes effective border control," and "allowing applicants for immigrant visas to file in the United States."

Now that Obama has won re-election, however, the advocacy group wants him instead to push a broader agenda through Congress.

"With the issue teed up for possible action," said Doris Meissner, a former commissioner at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, antagonizing congressional Republicans with executive actions "would not be politically smart."

The political climate for sweeping immigration changes "is significantly better," Meissner said, "but that does not mean it will happen."

Even with a full plate of challenges and a hostile party controlling the House, she said, "I think Obama absolutely has to go big on immigration."

The White House has declined to detail the president's plans for a second-term agenda. Once the deficit-spending problems known as the "fiscal cliff" are addressed, said White House spokeswoman Jamie Smith, "President Obama looks forward to working on a number of issues that are critical to our future, from immigration to energy, to education and national security direction."

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Maneki_Neko wrote:
Obama has long work list to tackle when he returns

When the going gets tough, the tough go on vacation.

on December 24,2012 | 08:25AM
serious wrote:
Now, Now! We should not grudge anyone a vacation. But the real issue on the work to be done is the President dividing the people--hate to say it, but the "leaders" in Europe that started WWII used the same tactics. It's the rich against the poor, the haves against the have nots, the R's against the D's. I don't want to get into the racial thing, but that is also there. Perhaps if he had run a business or been in the military he might have a different perspective on all this--we'll never know. But we sure have a divided Congress and citizens and one person to blame.
on December 24,2012 | 08:54AM
HD36 wrote:
If we made all politicians wear sponser patches like Nascar, I bet you'd find the same companies backing both. I'm not sure the President is dividing people, or if he's just a puppet of much larger powers but it seems to be working.
on December 24,2012 | 08:38PM
kuewa wrote:
I will bet that the President's vacations are a lot busier and less relaxing than yours. The constant press attention alone would be tiring for most people. And let's not forget that passing a budget is the responsibility of Congress, not the President, and Congress is also on vacation.
on December 24,2012 | 09:18AM
allie wrote:
on December 24,2012 | 12:32PM
serious wrote:
By law, the President is to present a budget to the Congress. He has't done it for 4 years, now make it the fifth.
on December 24,2012 | 03:41PM
Changalang wrote:
He did; they voted it down in the Senate and House; all legal. Next.
on December 24,2012 | 08:20PM
Changalang wrote:
You know the first dismissed were the Republican House Speaker and House representatives. He could not do his job. He couldn't pass a bill to the Senate on Thursday. If he did, then criticism of Obama may be fair. Legislation does not originate in the Oval Office. It starts in the House and the Seaker failed to muster enough votes that he brought to his own Majority floor. GOP Negligence.
on December 24,2012 | 03:13PM
frontman wrote:
The house had already passed THREE budget bills and the Senate would not take a vote on any of them. The Senate has voted 99 - 0 not to approve three Obama budgets, he can't even get the democrats to vote for his budgets,
on December 24,2012 | 05:48PM
Changalang wrote:
This was not a budget America is waiting for. It was always the plan of the Dems not to restrict themselves with ANY budget as the spent their way into stopping a Depression. Thursday's failed GOP House vote was the solution promised to the taxpayers by the House Speaker. He even named it after himself as "Plan B" for Speaker B0ner. He called a vote, the Senate postured and talked about what they could accomplish in conference committee over the holidays to pass something for Obama to sign, and The Speaker's signature legislation died on his own majority voting lack of confidence in their Speaker. What could the Speaker do ? Dismiss the House, blame someone else, and pretend he is not a miserable failure too. The Speaker came to D.C. as a B0ner, and went home for Christmas hoping to find mega-dose Viagra under his tree. Merry Christmas. Hope you brought a sled for the cliff. LOL.
on December 24,2012 | 07:18PM
frontman wrote:
What after he plays more golf..................he is NO leader.
on December 24,2012 | 05:44PM
Ronin006 wrote:
He should be in Washington now working on the nation's fiscal crisis instead of playing golf in Hawaii with his prostitute-soliciting friend, but that his the Obama way. He apparently has an affinity for hanging out with shady characters like prostitute-solicitor Tipcomb; like avowed Communist, Frank Marshall Davis; like radical Harvard law school professor and mentor, Charles Ogletree; like anti-America hate-monger Reverend Jeremiah Wright; like anti-America and convicted domestic terrorists Bill Ayers and his anti-America and convicted domestic terrorist wife, Bernadine Dohrn; like convict Tony Rezko who is serving 10 ½ years in prison for fraud and bribery; like Saul Mendelson, long time member of the Chicago Socialist Party USA; like Quentin Young, long-time member of the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America; like Professor Rashid Khalidi, an apologist and spokesman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO); and the list goes on. Is it any wonder Obama thinks like he does?
on December 24,2012 | 09:17AM
TLehel wrote:
Someone's mad. Don't be jealous you can't live on the edge like Obama.
on December 24,2012 | 09:56AM
allie wrote:
very unfair
on December 24,2012 | 12:32PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Why? Are there any untruths in his comment?
on December 24,2012 | 01:55PM
chacha555 wrote:
hey look everybody in congress in also on vacation, what about them
on December 24,2012 | 01:43PM
2Lolo wrote:
Bought and paid for in full by Anti American George Soros. To add to shady friends list: James Cone "Black Theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy" (James Cone; Black Theology & Black Power) & Father Pfleger, Louis Farrakhan, ACORN.
on December 24,2012 | 02:58PM
HD36 wrote:
I think Obama's one of the smartest president's as far as telling half-truths.
on December 24,2012 | 08:52PM
2Lolo wrote:
Half truths? I'd say he's truly adept at telling full blown lies. Remember his campaign promises?
on December 25,2012 | 04:37PM
Bumby wrote:
Who knows the difference between U.S. currency that says Silver Certificate and Federal Reserve Note listed on the top of each bill?
on December 24,2012 | 09:30AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Silver certificates were bills backed by real silver held by the Treasury. That practice was discontinued in the mid-1960s. Federal Reserve Notes, the only currency printed in the US today, are not backed by gold or silver but instead are backed by the government’s stability. Given the way Obama has taken the country and the way it will continue during his next four years as President, Federal Reserve Notes could be almost worthless in a few years, just like Greece’s currency.
on December 24,2012 | 12:17PM
Changalang wrote:
Not enough leverage for the Greatest Generation to spend unless the monetary multiplier was something so vague as "the full faith and credit of the United States of America". About 40 years agao, President Nixon took the USD off the gold standard. Good thing Nixon was "not a crook". Oh wait.......................... ROFL.
on December 24,2012 | 07:23PM
Changalang wrote:
" This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private "......................translated, it is the ultimate scam and the kicker is that our beloved dollar is the only worldwide fiat currency in existence. BHAHAHAHAHA. Can I borrow some nothing? I be glad to pay you back the nothing I borrowed, plus a little more of nothing for your "interest" in the transaction. DEAL ! The U.S. of A. has the whole world working for nothing. Talk about the ultimate jedi mind trick. :D
on December 24,2012 | 07:37PM
HD36 wrote:
And the funny thing was, he said he was doing it to stregnthen the dollar.
on December 24,2012 | 08:42PM
Changalang wrote:
That is how they sold the plan to the public.
on December 25,2012 | 06:07AM
Highinthesierras wrote:
He will stick to his guns. He formulated the cliff, he told Congress he will not back down and he will not allow Congress to kick the can down the road. He believes more revenue and the planned spending cuts are the right thing to do. Lets go over the cliff with him.
on December 24,2012 | 12:58PM
2Lolo wrote:
It seems as if Obama cannot destroy the US dollar fast enough. He seems to have been workin hard trying. Soon everyone will be carrying AMEROs, yah know, the currency that looks like the American and the Euro currency. That is, if the implanted chip doesnt make this obsolete.
on December 24,2012 | 02:12PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Interesting. I've thought for awhile now that identity theft would bring about the chip thing, which would be necessary for any economic dealings. Such an innocuous, seemingly harmless and effective solution, yet quite possibly the "mark of the beast". I'm watching very closely when and if this occurs, and whose behind it. We are indeed living in the last days, as so much we're seeing happen today that was unthinkable just a generation ago, has been accurately predicted.
on December 24,2012 | 07:03PM
Changalang wrote:
Doomsday has always been marketed to the naive public by swindlers. Consider that three days ago the Mayan calender ended. Swindlers made money. Let's face it. The Mayan stone carver stopped at 12-21-12 because he got a cramp and figured he could finish the rest tomorrow. Maybe the next day, that Mayan calender carver got a better job being the guy who gets to cut the hearts out of the human sacrifices. Messier work, but no carpel tunnel syndrome from all that endless stone carving. Carpe Diem.
on December 24,2012 | 08:37PM
Anonymous wrote:
If only this were true! But I read the Bible and the mark of the beast on the forehead or hand is upon us. Please see the following documentaries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y1hhEAmBCI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO36MjiPzjM
on December 24,2012 | 11:58PM
Changalang wrote:
I'll eat the beast for breakfast, and dump him out by dinner. It astounds me how many 'believers" fear the devil more than they have faith in the omnipotent power and saving grace of the Lord. Try it, you'll like it.
on December 25,2012 | 06:06AM
hawaiikone wrote:
It has been said that if a gun were put to the head of a believer and told to deny Christ or be shot, a large majority would choose the bullet. But using a very gradual, step by step deception, that will trick so many into letting their beliefs be compromised, is a much more dangerous thing to fear.
on December 25,2012 | 09:01AM
hawaiikone wrote:
"greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world". Agreed. But without Him in us, we're dead meat.
on December 25,2012 | 09:17AM
HD36 wrote:
I've heard that most people won't accept the mark, unless something drastic happens. If the dollar collapses and we we're to go into a state of hyper-inflation, then everything would have to be rationed, like food, gas, etc like in the 70's for gas. In order to get your day of food, you'll have to accept some kind of chip. Most people would fall in line pretty fast.
on December 24,2012 | 08:48PM
Anonymous wrote:
OK, well, that plan has already been put to motion and it worked like a charm. Look at the liberties you Americans have already lost when you try boarding an airplane. These are remarkable documentaries that I posted above. The American presidential elections are bogus. Every one of the present, past and future presidents has been pre-selected. Clinton was chosen for his presidency back in 1982 so forget those bitter animosities amongst each other. Kissinger said on the floor of the NYSE to the late Mark Haines on CNBC that "Obama has been primed for the head of the New World Order for some time now". Search it. You'll find this easily. All you need to do is worship Lucifer as God.
on December 25,2012 | 12:15AM
hawaiikone wrote:
It's because most people would refuse the "mark" that something drastic will happen. Something that will prompt what will seem like a logical, necessary action. Like an implanted chip. Few of us would willingly accept a "666" branded with a hot iron held by a guy with horns.
on December 25,2012 | 09:13AM
2Lolo wrote:
Fiscal cliff drastic enough fer ya? I shudder. Search for Aaron Russo and see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oi7o_UCsD_g Enjoy and Mele Kalikimaka!
on December 25,2012 | 04:54PM
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