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La Presse, Canada

The New Barack Obama

By Richard Hétu

This new Barack Obama... refuses concessions to the Republicans rather than the other way around

Translated By Tara Ferguson

21 January 2013

Edited by Vic­to­ria Denholm

Canada - La Presse - Original Article (French)

The new Barack Obama no longer takes for granted the good faith and good judgment of the Republicans in Congress. To strengthen his position among the public, he is even willing to liken his opponents to extortionists – as when he warned them against the temptation to use the raising of the debt ceiling in order to obtain spending cuts.

“They can act responsibly and pay America’s bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy,” said the president during a press conference at the White House last Monday.

This firmness produced the desired result. Four days later, Republicans in the House of Representatives folded and they promised to vote this week to raise the debt ceiling for three months. Their vote will allow the United States to avoid finding itself in default in mid-February, a due date feared by the markets.

This was Obama's second major victory over the Republicans since his re-election. Just after his re-election he managed to avoid the austerity of the “fiscal cliff” for the United States by forcing his opponents to accept what they had promised to refuse: an increase in the rate of taxation of the richest taxpayers with no spending cuts in return.

This new Barack Obama, who refuses concessions to the Republicans rather than the other way around, remained quiet last Monday for the inauguration ceremony which began at 11:30 at the Capitol, headquarters of the U.S. Congress. Even though the American capital did not exude the same emotion that it did four years ago, the president aimed to return to his favorite themes, which include hope and unity.

More Battles in Sight

The new Barack Obama will soon be tested. Republicans do indeed plan to get their revenge on the president during the new budgetary battles looming on the horizon. They will find in their path a president who is seeking less to compromise and more to fight for Democratic priorities.

The issue of firearms provides the best illustration of Barack Obama’s new strategy. The shooting in Newtown has probably forced his hand, but the president has endorsed several measures, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which raised the hostility of the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby, and its Republican allies.

The new Barack Obama may suffer defeat on the subject of firearms. However, this battle could very well serve to mobilize the Democratic electorate for the mid-term elections in 2014. An electorate composed of young people, Blacks, Hispanics and women allowed the 44th president to become the first candidate from his party since Franklin Roosevelt to win more than 50 percent of the votes in two consecutive presidential elections.

There is no doubt that the president and his Democratic allies dream of regaining the majority in the House of Representatives where the radical fringe of the Republican Party does not seem to have understood or accepted the verdict of the election on Nov. 6.

Unprecedented Combativeness

The new Barack Obama will also strive to achieve immigration reform, the main points of which he will reveal in his State of the Union address, scheduled for Feb. 12th. This time, he could get the cooperation of some Republicans who want to end many Latino voters' feeling of alienation from their party.

The new Barack Obama will not, however, wait for the willingness of Republicans. To defend and promote his projects, he has given the green light to create a new organization, Organizing for Action, whose mission is to mobilize ordinary citizens. "If the NRA's got a list, then Obama for America has a bigger list," said former presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs.

The new combativeness of Barack Obama is not limited to domestic issues. In choosing former Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska as secretary of defense, the president caused a furious reaction from supporters of the neoconservative movement who have previously imposed their vision of foreign policy on the Republican Party.

If the Senate approves the appointment of Chuck Hagel, which is expected, then the new Barack Obama can claim another victory and perhaps he’ll even eventually start to like it.



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