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JInghua, China

The Truth and Fiction Behind
Obama’s Campaign Promises

By Er Xiao

On paper, Obama's second term inaugural address was highly inspirational, which is standard convention for a second term president’s speech: rich in conjecture, poor in facts, a stronger emphasis on impassioned oration than on the actual declaration of policy.

Translated By Chase Coulson

23 January 2013

Edited by Heather Martin


China - JInghua - Original Article (Chinese)

Lies and truths combined, it's the standard of rhetoric. But in practical dealings, you just can't blur the line between truth and fiction. Herein lies the true test of Obama's second term, which will also determine his place in history.

Obama's inaugural address that followed his Jan. 21 oath of office was meant to reaffirm America's national spirit and send out a call for unity. On the domestic affairs front, Obama emphasized that there will be new ideas and new technologies used to remake the government and revamp the tax code and schools, that through equitable means the cost of health care will be driven down and that the federal deficit will be reduced to bring about economic equality. He promised to bring support to the middle class and strengthen Social Security and, on the foreign affairs front, to consolidate U.S. alliances around the world, while simultaneously doing his utmost to resolve differences with other countries peacefully.

On paper, Obama's second term inaugural address was highly inspirational, which is standard convention for a second term president’s speech: rich in conjecture, poor in facts, a stronger emphasis on impassioned oration than on the actual declaration of policy. After all, the primary task of a U.S. president's second term is finishing what he started in the first. But Obama's speech was not completely hollow; among his description of new ideas, he did disclose something “real.”

Faced with a still-stagnant economy, the prime challenge of this new term, Obama reasoned that there are new technologies needed to spur economic recovery. As the president who assumed office amid the financial crisis, Obama's first term was spent as a member of the “fire brigade.” As it stands now, the U.S. economy has moved into the slow recovery phase, which has been shaped largely by returns from the quantitative easing monetary policy, seigniorage privileges and manufacturing. However, this has also created new risks, like the fiscal cliff. Forced to reduce the deficit and government spending power simultaneously, will it be possible to keep up the pace of economic recovery? This is the trial that Obama is currently facing. On account of federal government statutes, the debt ceiling is about to expire, so the trial has become ever more severe.

In order to avoid the fiscal cliff, everything hinges on congressional bipartisan cooperation, but even with finding a solution to the debt ceiling situation, Obama will ultimately still be faced with a great many unknowns. Even if Congress does come to a unanimous decision, this does not mean the U.S. economy will turn around — using high debts as a means of economic stimulation is not possible to do forever. Perhaps it was based on this consideration that Obama waved the banner of new technology, yet made no mention of “cooperation” with the Republicans, which set off a wave of scorching criticism from the Republican camp. It also signifies that the interplay between the two parties is an important factor that will directly affect U.S. economic and market performance.

What the outside world is following even more closely is the new wording that Obama used to explain foreign affairs: “We will … try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully.” On the surface, the wording here seemed to continue along with the unilateral logic employed at the conclusion of his first term — namely, withdrawing the troops from the Middle East. In the rapidly changing landscape of last year’s Middle East conflict, there the U.S. was, hovering in the background, which was seemingly a demonstration of this same logic. But one simply can’t ignore the fact that, in the high-profile return to Asia, the U.S. has not exactly been the embodiment of the, “peaceful resolution of differences” that it wishes to be. In the game of East China Sea power, it seems that, behind the standpoint of “fuzzy neutrality,” the U.S. is hardly even trying to cover up the fact that it’s leaning to one side. It goes without saying that this not only presents absolutely no benefit to carrying out dialogues in the area, but also, with joint military exercises constantly being performed in the area, actually exacerbates instability in the region.

Besides that, East Asia is an important market for the U.S., and it is also a key location in which to bring about the U.S.’ economic recovery. If in the peaceful resolution of differences there is a split favoring one region or the other, or if the U.S. says one thing and does another, or if there is some sort of double standard at play here, then it will not be beneficial to stability in the region and could quite possibly cause the U.S. itself to become trapped inside.

Truth and lies blended together — this is the stuff of rhetoric. But in practical application, one simply cannot blur the line between truth and fiction. This will prove to be the true test of Obama’s second term and will also determine his legacy and his ultimate place in history.



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