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Die Zeit, Germany

Obama’s Objectives,
Obama’s Promises


By Die Zeit online

Translated By Christiane Thieme

16 January 2009

Edited by Brid­gette Blight


Germany - Die Zeit - Original Article (German)

Nobody knows how and if Obama will realize the objectives and promises he set himself during the election campaign. But hope, as we all know, springs eternal.

During the election campaign, President-elect Barack Obama made plenty of political promises. In the course of the serious economic and financial crisis, however, he had to set his political priorities anew. Here is an overview of his current objectives and intentions:

Economy
Fighting the economic crisis has become Obama’s current focus. He is asking Congress for the quick adoption of a comprehensive economic stimulus package. Some sources speak of a sum around $800 billion (600 billion Euro), but Obama does not exclude a possible increase to over $1 trillion. That would be the largest economic stimulus package in decades. The plan is supposed to secure between three and four million jobs. Additionally, Obama advocates a separate rescue package for the ailing automobile industry. Thus far, car manufacturers have only received a bridge loan that is aimed at securing their survival until the end of March.

Taxes
An important part of the economic stimulus package is tax cuts. During the election campaign, Obama already announced a reduction in tax burden for families with an annual income below $150,000. His promise to immediately abolish the tax cuts for annual incomes above $250,000, which were introduced under the George W. Bush administration, is starting to destabilize, however. Considering the current economic situation, such a measure will not be put into place anytime soon, his team says.

Finances
Considering the expected record budget deficit, Obama has ordered strict discipline. Every single position has to be reconsidered for its necessity and usefulness. For this task, Obama even appointed his own “budget watchdog”. Obama furthermore seeks from the Congress the remaining $350 billion of the financial industry bailout package that had been adopted last October. However, Obama wants to use the money not only to help financial institutions, but also to support homeowners who got into financial difficulties because of the real estate crisis. Obama also demands stricter control of the financial sector in order to avoid future crises of the same caliber.

Energy
In the course of his economic stimulus package, Obama also seeks a massive promotion of alternative energy sources. During the election campaign, he argued for higher tax rates for oil company profits, and did not exclude the possible construction of nuclear power plants.

Climate Change
By 2050, Obama wants to reduce CO2 emissions to 80 percent of the level in 1990. He is a strong advocate of emissions trading, which Bush rejected. Obama argues for internationally binding objectives for emissions reduction, which would include China, India and Russia.

Iraq/Afghanistan
During the election campaign, Obama initially promised to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months if he was to be elected president. Later, he spoke of a “responsible, phased withdrawal”. At the very beginning of the election campaign, the Iraq war was still one of the main topics. However, due to an improvement of the security situation in Iraq, the topic has temporarily disappeared from the headlines. Instead, Obama pleads for an increase in troops in Afghanistan as well as for the persecution of Al Quaida and Taliban - even in Pakistan. A very important objective is to capture terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.

Middle East
Until now, Obama has not commented much on Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip. However, he already hinted at a Middle East initiative after his inauguration. He wants to put a “steady and persistent effort into solving the conflicts in the Middle East”. In general, he supports a ‘Two-State-Solution”.

Iran
During the election campaign, Obama considered direct negotiations with Iran’s leadership without preconditions. These should not be abused for propaganda purposes, however. At the same time, Obama does not want to allow the Iran under any circumstances to build nuclear weapons.

Guantanamo
Obama admits that he cannot keep his promise to close the prisoner camp in Cuba within 100 days. This was “more difficult than a lot of people realize”. There are judicial problems and questions regarding safety and security. However, he is still determined to close the camp eventually.

Torture
Obama does not preclude legal measures against the Bush administration for the possible violation of human rights. “No one’s above the law,” he recently stated. He also considers “waterboarding”, an interrogation method used by U.S. security forces that simulates the drowning of the suspect, torture. There will not be any torture during his presidency, he said.



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