President Obama Gets Second Term

President Obama Gets Second Term
Best Bet to Ease the Nation's Pain
-Gopinath Raina
mericans have done it again. In a hard-fought election that served as a referendum on who is the best bet to ease the nation's pain, the electorate gave President Obama a mandate to lead the country for a second term. While the election meant a rude awakening for the Republicans, it marked enormous cultural and voter shift with Hispanics playing a significant, possibly a decisive, role in the outcome.

For the second time in a row, the people of America saw in Obama a leader who would steer the country through its critical period with a steady hand at the wheel. A man for all seasons, Obama is the second Democrat to win a second term since World War ll, sweeping the Northeast and West Coast States and winning most of the key battlegrounds, including Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Key to Obama Win

Obama, according to political analysts, was not supposed to win re-election. But he did. How and why, one would ask? The answer is not far to seek. The intelligent US voter did not fail to realize that in his first term Barrack Obama not only prevented an economic collapse inherited from President Bush but also brought down unemployment rate to 7.8%, which ostensibly is much lower than the figures in 1983 when it had touched even 10.4% and 1984 when Ronald Reagan, the Republican hero, was the President.

The President, In the last four years, had also managed to push through landmark legislations and succeeded where others had failed. His achievements included rescuing the Auto Industry, passing comprehensive health care act, ending the Iraq war and the killing of al Qaeda Chief Osama bin Laden in a daring Navy SEAL raid.

Obama's victory was a logical outcome of the changing profile of the American population that has been evolving into a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society for some time now. In 2008, Obama rode on anti-Bush, anti-war wave but this time he highlighted key social issues like abortion, healthcare for all, gender pay equality and in the process crafted a winning coalition of minority voters plus a majority of women, white liberals and most of those under 30.

There were several contributing factors to Obama win--an improving economy and an astute roller-coaster and relentlessly focused campaign. Some credit must also go to Nature's October surprise, Hurricane Sandy, that acted as circuit-breaker on the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney's campaign, blowing him off center stage for nearly three critical days and that, too, during the final week of the Presidential race. The storm also enabled Obama to dominate as Presidential comforter-in-chief who performed his leadership role so well that Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, and Bloomberg, Independent Mayor of New York, showered effusive praises on the President.

Romney's Failure

The Republican challenger's failure could be attributed to his shifting positions like the proverbial chameleon on various issues like abortion and contraceptive rights since his 2002 election as governor of Massachusetts. Mitt Romney also failed to support Obama-backed legislation easing the way for women to sue over discrimination in workplace pay. The economy's slow but steady improvement robbed Romney of his best argument for why people should vote against Obama. He also failed to make a clear case for why people should choose him instead. And above all, he sought to mislead the voters.

Tasks Ahead

As he begins his second term, President Obama confronts a daunting array of domestic and foreign policy challenges. Even though the nation is not in an economic freefall as it was when Obama took over in 2008, yet the country owes $14-trillion debt which is climbing. The federal budget is a mess of temporary measures held together by short-term fixes. And the unemployment rate has to be brought down further and economic growth fully ensured.

For the recovery to continue, cooperation on both sides of the political divide will have to replace the bitterness of the last four years when the declared objective of the radicals in the Republican Party was to make Obama a one-term President. Now that he has just won a second lease, will the situation be any different? Or will Americans have to endure political gridlock again?

Fiscal Cliff

During a Washington event on November 28, President Obama rolled out a strategy to marshal popular support for his efforts to keep tax breaks for most Americans while raising taxes on the top earners. He declared: "I will go anywhere and I will do whatever it takes to get this done." He urged the people to use social media to pressure Congress in this regard.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are reportedly unwilling to accept the latest White House offer of $1.6 trillion in new revenue over a decade, largely from tax increases on the wealthy as well as spending cuts the President had previously proposed. The White House also wants $50 billion in new stimulus spending, aid to help homeowners refinance mortgages, $30 billion in extended unemployment benefits and a new process to make it easier to raise the federal debt limit, which must increase in a matter of months to prevent a default.

The House Speaker, John Boehner, struck a gloomy note after speaking to the President on phone and then meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on November 29. "I am disappointed in where we are," Boehner said.

Just four weeks remain before the nation heads off the $500 billion "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts, which experts warn could cause a recession. In the event of not being able to achieve bipartisan consensus, however, Obama, who seems to possess the ability to broker a political peace, may explore new policy options and pull out all plugs to rebuild the nation's battered economy without having to worry about electoral repercussions.

Foreign Policy Options

Many Asian governments welcomed Obama's victory in the belief that he can sustain the strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific region started during his first term. The official Xinhua news agency, while accusing the US of "blatantly meddling in China's territorial rows with its neighbors, greeted Mr. Obama's electoral triumph, expressing hope that tensions between the world’s two biggest powers would be effectively managed.

To tout his vision of "pivoting" US attention and resources to Asia, President Obama began his first 3-day tour after re-election to three Southeast Asian countries. Thailand, America’s oldest ally in Asia, was the first stop of the President's overseas journey. Joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their final foreign trip together before she steps down, Mr. Obama visited the Wat Pho Royal Monastery, one of Thailand’s most revered cultural outposts and inspected the famed giant reclining Buddha.

After a day in Thailand, Mr. Obama headed for Myanmar for a historic visit, the first by any American President, highlighting the emergence of that isolated country, long known as Burma, from decades of repressive military rule.

From Myanmar, Obama flew to Cambodia to attend the East Asia Summit where in a meeting with Asian leaders he agreed to conclude negotiations by the end of 2013 for creating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a giant free trade area of Asian and Western hemisphere Pacific rim countries that would become the world’s biggest and most ambitious commercial bloc. While negotiations for the TPP were already under way, Obama’s Asia trip accelerated the agenda.

While the President himself hailed alliances with countries such as Thailand as cornerstones of the administration’s deeper commitment to the Asia-Pacific region, some analysts opined that Obama's visit to Asia may have major implications for Latin America in general and for Cuba in particular.

Violence in Gaza

Obama's Asia trip was, however, overshadowed by violence in Gaza. Yet as the President and key administration officials tried to devote quality time and attention to Asia, Obama remained in regular contact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as with Egyptian and Turkish leaders. While he was in Cambodia, President Obama dispatched Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, from Asia directly to the Middle East for talks with Israeli and Arab leaders.

Meanwhile, Washington and Israel are at odds over how best to deal with the potential nuclear threat from Iran. Obama administration's aim of curtailing Tehran's atomic development by intensifying economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure is not very popular with Israelis.

Indo-US Relationship

"India is a big part of my plans," President Obama told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when the two leaders had a short but crucial meeting at the East Asia Summit in the Cambodian capital. This was the first time they met after November 6 polls in the US.

Earlier, the Indian Prime Minister had, in his congratulatory message to the US President, referred to the association between the two leaders over the past four years and recalled that cooperation between the two countries had not only been advanced across the full spectrum of ties but engagement had been deepened. He said that he looked forward to continuing their friendship and rewarding association as much more could be done together to further strengthen bilateral ties.
*A journalist by profession, a scholar by temperament and a writer by choice, Gopinath Raina was inclined to the study of religion from his very young age. It was Swami Vivekananda’s dynamic exposition of Hindu thought that fired his imagination while he was still at school, and by the time he entered college, he had been drawn to the writings of Gandhi, Aurobindo, Narayana Guru, Radhakrishnan and Bertrand Russel.

After retiring from Indian Information Service (I.I.S.) in 1983 where he distinguished himself as an editor, correspondent, commentator and administrator in All India Radio, he edited, AICC Journal, Varnika, (Jan.'84-Dec.'90), Koshur Samachar (March'91-Oct'95, Sanatana Sandesh,(1997-2005) and KASHEER (2003-2004),

He has been writing profusely on various aspects of Hindu thought. He enjoys writing, particularly on saints and sages, not only of Kashmir, but of the other parts of India as well. Presently he lives in Miami, and spends his time writing personal memoirs.

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