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La Crónica, Mexico

Obama: New Government, Same Quarrels

By Concepción Badillo

Translated By Alan Bailey

9 January 2013

Edited by Kath­leen Weinberger

Mexico - La Crónica - Original Article (Spanish)

New Year, New Life — but not for Barack Obama. On Jan. 20, he will assume the presidency of the country for a second consecutive term, confronting Republican legislators who will make it almost impossible for him to keep promises that he made and to fulfill his best wishes for 2013.

To start with, on Monday the president began his second term by nominating ex-senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, as well as anti-terrorist advisor John Brennan as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). With these nominations, Obama has opened a new battlefront in the continuous and ever stronger fight with his opposition in Congress.

The president may have won four more years in the White House, but he has a very small political playing field to push through the principal points of his agenda, starting with the matter that he insists will be his priority in the coming months: immigration reform.

Obama promised that this time he will indeed achieve what he offered in 2008 in terms of immigration. Given the pressure of Latino and pro-immigrant groups that contributed much to his re-election, it is taken as a fact that now the president will indeed have no choice but to propose concrete actions that will bring forward, as he himself has said, the creation and passing of a law that will eventually offer legal citizenship to those that are here without documents.

Another confrontation with Congress that will not be easy is expected to come when, and indeed if, the president tries to implement greater gun control. Obama has promised to use all the power of the presidency to prevent and avoid other massacres like that which occurred in a primary school on Dec. 14, when 20 children died at the hands of an armed youth with an arsenal owned and legally acquired by his mother. This will surely result in an attempt to impose more restrictions on the purchase and possession of arms, which will without a doubt infuriate the Republicans.

However, given the terrible killings that occurred in his first four years of governing, Obama will have no choice but to attempt it. For this reason, he has said that he expects to have on his desk, this month, a series of recommendations from a group of experts that he put in charge of the task.

It is a fact that the appointment of Brennan to succeed General David Petraeus at the CIA will not be easy, above all because he was involved with the team during the Bush administration that was accused of having performed torture. However, he denies having agreed to it.

For now, Obama has his plate full with the strong opposition that he has incited with his nomination of Hagel, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War and 12-year Republican senator, to replace Leon Panetta as the leader of the Pentagon. Yet all signs seem to indicate that the president has no intention of losing to the Republicans again, as happened in December, when he announced his intention to appoint current UN Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, a position for which, in the end, he nominated John Kerry.

Hagel, in spite of having occupied a Republican seat, is widely rejected and opposed almost unanimously by other members of his party in Congress, who principally accuse him of being an anti-Semite, of having criticized the Iraq intervention and of opposing the adoption of tougher measures against Iran.

But it's not just that. Hagel also has several Democratic members of Congress against him, who accuse the former senator of supporting policies that prohibit homosexuals from serving in the armed forces and of having made a pejorative comment in 1998 about the nomination of an openly homosexual ambassador.

The opposition to Hagel has highlighted the great influence that Israel has in Washington, since he is criticized most for the one time when he said: "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here." His opponents argue that he should not have said Jewish, but rather "pro-Israel". This, as told by the webpage Weekly Standard, "is anti-Semitism." Meanwhile, influential Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens has said that the nomination of Hagel "shows that the president is no friend of Israel."

Obama, however, does not seem intimidated and has taken for granted the confirmation of his chosen one. He thinks that Hagel will become a great ally that, like himself, views military intervention cautiously and shares the idea of pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. Plus, it would give a bipartisan touch to his new administration. It remains to be seen who will win this first round.



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