The Next Two Years For The Obama Presidency

Filed in National by on November 29, 2010

Where the Obama presidency goes next has been a subject of intense fascination on the blog. Some commenters think that a primary challenge to Obama from the left will make Obama move left. That will be very difficult considering the hard right turn of Congress and the anticipated gridlock that will occur. Eugene Robinson lays out what he thinks Obama can do despite Congress.

For what it’s worth, my advice for Obama is to forget the Republicans. Not literally, of course – the new House leadership is going to make itself hard to ignore. But ultimately, it’s the president who sets the agenda and who ultimately is held accountable for America’s successes and failures. Obama’s focus should be on using all the tools at his disposal to move the country in the direction he believes it must go.

A new report by the Center for American Progress – a think tank headed by John Podesta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton – seeks to remind Obama that shepherding legislation through Congress is only one of the ways a president can get things done.

Presidents can issue executive orders, the report notes. They can use their rulemaking powers, working through federal agencies that already have broad mandates under law. They can forge public-private partnerships. They can shape world events through diplomacy and command of the armed forces.

From the CAP report:

Concentrating on executive powers presents a real opportunity for the Obama administration to turn its focus away from a divided Congress and the unappetizing process of making legislative sausage. Instead, the administration can focus on the president’s ability to deliver results for the American people on the things that matter most to them:

• Job creation and economic competitiveness
• Educational excellence
• A clean energy future and energy independence
• Quality affordable health care
• Consumer protection
• The home foreclosure crisis
• Accountable government delivering results at lower cost
• Sustainable security for the nation

In addition, the key legislative accomplishments of President Obama’s first two years in office, most notably health care and financial reform, now need to be implemented effectively. Both the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act require hundreds of separate rulemakings and other agency actions to implement the legislative framework.

As both Robinson and Podesta point out, the president was deeply engaged with Congress in his first two years because he had a legislative agenda that he wanted to pass. Now he knows that he won’t be able to get much of that agenda through and can concentrate on other issues. We’ll have to wait and see if he has the political skills to out-play Republicans in Congress, who have the media on their side. Obama still has a big advantage – he is the president and he’s much more popular than John Boehner or Mitch McConnell.


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Comments (17)

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  1. anon says:

    The Podesta report does not contain the word “veto.” Wuss.

    Also left out was the Presidential ability to reward his friends and punish his enemies. More LBJ and less Mr. Rogers, please.

    Apart from trying to get anything done, Obama will have his hands full just trying to keep mischevious bills off his desk. Pelosi, Reid, and Obama need to figure out what their agenda is, and work as a team.

    In the 1990s Republican Congresses savaged us with frivolous crap like flag burning amendments, Pledge of Allegience, gay rights. This time around it will be teabagger-related crap like debt caps, and Constitutional labeling of bills. All stupid stuff, but just enough to tip elections in swing districts, and drive wingnut fundraising across the board.

    First line of defense is Pelosi, in her weakened minority role. Her job is to keep Democrats in line and get enough Republican defectors to block Republican bills. A tough assignment, but one that must be attempted every time. Failing that, she needs to use every procedural trick in the book to slow down Republican bills or attach poison pill amendments. Just like a Republican would do. And every time Republicans vote for more candy for the rich, she needs to call them out for it on a national platform, and be backed up by coordinated messaging from every Democrat. The more of that she does, the more negotiating leverage she will retain.

    Second line of defense is Reid. Neither Senate committees nor the full Senate can be trusted to block Republican bills. So Reid is either with the Democrats or he is with the Republicans. Reid is probably the weakest link.

    Last line of defense is Obama. Use the veto threat, use the veto pen, use the bully pulpit, use the spoils system. Use presidential power to punish enemies and reward friends.

  2. socialistic Ben says:

    “Her job is to keep Democrats in line and get enough Republican defectors to block Republican bills.”

    Republican defectors? no such thing. They vote as one all the time.

  3. anon says:

    Republican defectors? no such thing. They vote as one all the time.

    Then pick the weakest ones out of the herd and run them down mercilessly using that presidential power Podesta is talking about. Punish your enemies. Stop accepting defeat so enthusiastically.

  4. socialistic Ben says:

    There is no such thing as presidential power left… Not the kind you are talking about anyway. The president of the united states has become an unrespected position. If the Obama exerts any “bully pulpit” power at all, the right wing media will report what a tyrant he is. Democrats will be forced to denounce his “overreaching”. He has never been able to do this without being compared to Hitler. It isnt just Glenn Beck that does this anymore. The other “news” outlets dont say it outright but they report that “some” feel… blah blah blah.

    And if anyone thinks the new Baggers in congress are individuals, they are mistaken. Just the newest packaging in the same old GOP that has existed ever since the Dixiecrats changed to R so they could continue to be bigoted shitstains.

    Obama needs an enemy of equal or greater power. It was Hillary, or McCain…. now that the republicans control the house… Mr Boehner.. WHERE ARE THE JOBS?!…. he has one. The threat of President Palin will also help him and the agenda. The american people are a bunch of mush-brains. They need to root for the underdog even if the “underdog” has only been out of power for 2 years and for the 20 years prior, did everythign they could to push this country back to 1890.

  5. anon says:

    A lot will depend on whether Obama signs the tax cuts for the rich or not.

    If Obama signs the tax cuts for the rich, he will get exactly zero good will from Republicans for his compromise. Republicans will take credit and crow about forcing Obama into accepting them. There will be no political or economic gain from extending them, and worse, Obama will be blamed for the increased deficits.

    But if he vetoes them he will be rewarded by an immediate cut in the deficit. A decrease in the deficit would be a substantive political win (not to mention an economic win). However, a futile attempt to mollify wingnuts with more tax cuts is a FAIL.

    If all the tax cut extensions are vetoed, Democrats can play hardball with the House for the next two years to get a clean middle-class tax cut, scoring political points all the way as Repubs fight for the rich. As long as Obama holds steady with a veto threat, the House will eventually cave and give him the clean bill.

  6. socialistic Ben says:

    1. Americans don’t really care about the deficit… not more than “lower taxes” anyway. This country cares about the national debt as long it doesn’t require them to do anything or put forth any effort. If higher taxes=lower deficit, all this nation of American Idol viewers will care about is how Fox news is telling them they have to each pay 1000000 more dollars a year for Obama’s vacations.
    Listen up fellow liberals, stop giving your fellow Americans so much credit. They are so much dumber than you think and really need to be talked to like temperamental children. Use the veto threat? Every bill will contain the words “American Patriotic act for Moral Americans” and no matter what it contains, all the sheeple will know is that “Muslim President Obama Vetos Pro American Bill”
    We are discussing these scenarios with the assumption that the electorate will approach them reasonably and with the facts. If the democrats…. and be association the progressive movement want to survive, we stop thinking people will eventually see the truth. No one is interested in the truth, they are interested in packaging. “How is Obama going to package the next 2 years?” should be the question. “what can the democrats do to fool the mob into voting for their own self interests and not in the interests of $t. Sarah’s tv ratings?

  7. Geezer says:

    Ben: Please remember that the GOP “wave” was a wave of voting, vs. a demoralized Democratic base that stayed home. The number of numbnutz right-wingers hasn’t changed.

  8. socialistic Ben says:

    Geezer, i think that is something we are telling ourselves to ignore the truth. Not that i think it is entirely false. Yes, demoralized democrats and over excited T-tards did help the GOP “take their country back”. However, we need to assume the same tactics will be used again. Even more Bags are going to vote in the 2012 elections and the question has to be “can we whip up enough idiots to beat THEIR idiots?”
    This past election cycle taught me that the louder voice can win. Sad but true. If you believe that progressive policies are what is best, then forget about winning the “honorable way” and just do whatever it takes to keep the conservatives away.

  9. Geezer says:

    It’s what we’re telling ourselves because it’s true.

    “This past election cycle taught me that the louder voice can win.”

    Then you get an F.

  10. socialistic ben says:

    Then please prove me wrong.
    The Democrats passed the largest tax cut for the middle class ever. What did the Sheeple know? That Obama taxes them to death…. packaging.
    The Democrats did all they could (in the face of a muli billion dollar smear campaign) to kill the insurance cartels and to give actual humans better access to health care.
    What do the sheeple know? “that Obama instituted government death panels

  11. anonone says:

    The next two years for the Obama Presidency are too painful to think about. More war. More deaths. More high unemployment. More lies. More destruction of Civil Liberties. More lawlessness and injustice. More global warming. More Gitmo.

    Welcome to the last two years of Bush’s third term.

  12. Geezer says:

    I will grant you that the administration’s failure to put forward a coherent message doomed the Democrats in 2010. I disagree about the insurance cartels — I can’t see why they’re fighting a system that’s set to deliver them 30% more customers in 2014. But the number of people who think “death panels” are involved is, I guarantee you, below 50%.

    I’m not saying I know the answer. But if the only answer is acting like a Republican — knowingly spreading fear and lies — let me quote Sam Goldwyn: “Include me out.”

  13. Socialistic Ben says:

    I don’t think we should spread fear and lies… Our truth is better than their truth. That is why they need the lies. We need to just acknowledge that our argument cant win on it’s own merits because it isn’t entertaining enough. I know how cynical i sound but i keep coming back to the same conclusion. If we elected our leaders via a weekly call in tv show, Bristol Palin would be president. If we want our agenda, we have to be willing to play the game. I thought we had gotten over that hurdle by electing Obama… turns our we were just able to excite more idiots than the GOP was able to excite.
    Screw honor. Health care every American… or ending the rape of our planet… or ensuring a fair days pay for a hard day’s work… or whatever humanistic policy the GOP is fighting against… is more important than “sportsmanship” .”

  14. Geezer says:

    I guess we agree, then — we need to get the truth out. How to make that as entertaining as the Conservlican lies, I don’t know. Fear trumps everything else, and the fears we harbor are the kind that sneak up very, very slowly. It doesn’t spur immediate fear the way terrorism seems to.

  15. anonone says:

    I am sure that Obomba’s unilateral freeze of Federal workers’ wages will endear him to the voters who live in those households. Not. Let’s see how else he can screw workers in the next two years.

  16. anonone says:

    “Everyone Hates Obama’s Pay Freeze Plan… Except Republicans”

    Still wondering what the next two years are going to be like?

  17. Ordinary Joe says:

    Then again, there is what it most likely will look like — EPIC FAIL!