Tough Week for Obama


No one said it was going to be easy. The pressures of the first 100 days, the problems that were inherited, the persistent ideological divide between the parties, and the obstacles in the confirmation process of his cabinet secretaries have the new Obama administration taking a strong dose of political reality. Some pundits are saying that the lustre is wearing off, yet Obama’s poll numbers remain sky high. Is Washington that disconnected or does the American public not get it?

The battle over the stimulus or recovery package was always going to be tough. Democrats and Republicans have been polarized for decades and it is foolhardy to believe that reaching a consensus between them is easy. The president is obsessed with finding a bipartisan solution and it would send the right signals if he were to succeed. But, in order to do so, it will be essential that both parties find grounds for compromise, and Obama has been cajoling, pressuring and trying to seduce some leading legislators to change their rigid positions in order to close the deal.

Obama’s opposition to protectionist measures that could start a trade war were encouraging to Republicans and to trading nations, while his ceiling on CEO pay for bailed-out companies in the finance sector is bound to please the Democratic base. Finally, his admission that he “screwed up” on some cabinet nominations was refreshing by most standards. In short, Obama has been showing leadership and has kept the focus on his ultimate goal—to get the recovery package through. In no way is this young president showing any signs of being destabilized.

America is facing enormous challenges and it will be years before it can chart a course based on a stable economy and domestic security. These are dangerous times and the Obama administration seems very conscious of the stakes. His mandate is the most daunting since FDR. It is said that crisis tests the greatness of its leaders; I remain confident that Obama has the talent and the character to meet the challenges of the day and prepare the course for future generations. His poise and grace have shone through this tough week and will serve him well for the many to come.


Tough Week for Obama

  1. “I remain confident that Obama has the talent and the character to meet the challenges of the day and prepare the course for future generations.”

    Why do you remain confident?

    I like Obama’s plan to reduce national debt by nominating wealthy Dems which forces them to pay their back taxes. But Obama seems to want to achieve a record in appointing scofflaws to Cabinet, the stimulus bill is rapidly sinking in popularity and it’s becoming apparent that he cares more about style than substance.

    ‘Closing’ Gitmo, while still allowing torture and rendition, and now his desire to change the “War on Terror’ to SAVE or somesuch while basically continuing Bush’ policies are just two examples of Obama’s attempt to hoodwink public into thinking he’s doing more than he actually is.

    • I’m very fond of the Republican double standard on Presidential nominees – next we’ll hear that Leon Panetta has an unpaid parking ticket and is therefore completely unqualified to run the CIA.

      I see no reason to put closing in quotes. Guantanamo will be closed within the year. No ifs ands or buts.

      Obama is not allowing torture. There is no gray area here. Eric Holder said expressly and unequivocally that torture is not permitted, and that waterboarding is torture. The same simple question Mukasey couldn’t answer.

      Obama is not continuing Bush’s practice of extraordinary rendition.

      As usual, jwl, epic FAIL.

  2. It’s still way too soon to observe the patterns to his decision making as yet : I always like the 100 day marker as that one sort of sets the stage!

    • Thank heavens Napoléon only lasted 100 days between Elba and Waterloo or we wouldn’t know how long to wait to figure if a politician is doing a good job.

      • Napolean was Empiratur Extreme meaning he started oput as a politician but became emperor which is about as far away from a poltician as you can get – he started out as a poltician but kept having to deal with the plebes. By the way he was all Big Vision, Big Ideas , Big HOPE guy in fact if I recollect correctly my university days that was his real success be actually conned his subjects by offering HOPE! We can change – yes we can … strange correspondence isn’t it.

  3. JWL, Barack Obama has been very clear that torture is not NOT allowed. I don’t know what the position on rendition is, but if you can provide some examples of rendition that would be interesting.

    John Parisella, I would like you to clarify a few points.
    “Obama’s poll numbers remain sky high” – which polls are you referring to? Were they taken after the withdrawal of the two nominees?

    “The president is obsessed with finding a bipartisan solution” – do you believe it is genuinely an obsesssion? Or were you using that term for dramatic effect. Would it not be more accurate to say that Obama is convinced of the necessity of finding a bipartisan solution. That he sees the value in the optics of that. If the Republicans did not filibuster, but did not vote in favour of the bill, would he would veto it?

    “Obama has been […] trying to seduce some leading legislators to change their rigid positions” – really? In what way? What are his methods of seduction?

    There is a word coined on a former macleans.ca blog for this type of rhetoric. That word is “traversian”.

    • “The CIA’s secret prisons are being shuttered. Harsh interrogation techniques are off-limits. And Guantanamo Bay will eventually go back to being a wind-swept naval base on the southeastern corner of Cuba. But even while dismantling these programs, President Obama left intact an equally controversial counter-terrorism tool.

      Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.

      Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism — aside from Predator missile strikes — for taking suspected terrorists off the street.” LA Times, Feb 1 ’09

      I can’t find link at the moment but my impression was that Obama’s exec order said torture tactics are not acceptable in general but still ok in dire circumstances like, for example, there’s a secret bomb in NY, it’s going to go off in 12 hours and the guy who knows where it is isn’t talking to authorities.

      • “there’s a secret bomb in NY, it’s going to go off in 12 hours”

        Thank goodness we’ll still have torture if we find ourselves trapped in a Michael Bay movie. But here in the real world, this sort of thing does. not. happen.

        • I think of it as the Jack Bauer clause but Bay works just as well. Agreed that my scenario is not common but Obama did not ban torture outright just in case something like this does occur.

      • Your impressions are wrong, but that of course is nothing new.

        There is a difference between rendition and extraordinary rendition. The latter is the GW Bush invention – taking place completely outside of existing laws and international norms, and was basically a term to describe people getting shipped off to Syrian (and other) dungeons to be tortured.

        Rendition , however, has a completely different meaning – it’s supervised, and it’s merely transferring prisoners to other countries where a public hearing in an official court is guaranteed. An extradition would fall under this this type of rendition. And just as Canada refuses (or used to, before Harper) to extradite people in cases where the death penalty is a potential outcome, the US under Obama would presumably refuse to hand people over to governments who were likely to torture.

    • Pete, I think what you are looking for is an article in The Economist, not a blog. Or perhaps you need to take a adult education class at your local university.

      And also, if you can’t figure out how one politician seduces others to get his way, than you most definitely need to enroll in that class.

      Oh and I have to agree with John, Obama does seem obbessed. After all, he could get his package through with much Republican support, but for some reason, he’s intent on getting their full-fledged backing. Seems a lot like obbession. But if you disagree with his use of the word, that’s fine. It doesnot, however, make John’s use of it, wrong. You can agree or disagree with an opinion, Pete, but you can never call it right or wrong.

      • You are wrong ,Goog.he needs republicans because they are smarter on tax issues .

        • Yeah, Republicans were sure smarter for the last 8 years, with their large tax cuts for the richest Americans which they felt would have a trickle down effect. Hmm, considering where the American economy is, guess we are still waiting for that trickle….

      • Well Goog I appreciate your suggestions. In fact, I already subscribe to the Economist and very much enjoy their articles. I don’t think an adult education course is in the cards at this time. I scoured my post again and I fail to see where I called John “wrong”.

        My issue with John Parisella’s post has much to do with my issue with John Parisella’s blog in general. I feel it is out of place on macleans.ca because it is more of a personal blog than a professional blog like all of the others. You see, the other bloggists on here adhere to journalistic ethics and standards in all of their posts. Also, even when being snide or sarcastic, they maintain genuiness and provide substance to the public discourse. John tends to spout partisan rhetoric. When he uses words like “obsessed” and “seduce”, I wonder if he is merely trying to be poetic, or if he genuinely believes these words apply to the situation. I ask John questions because I want John to make the case for why his blog belongs on a Newsmagazine’s website and not on blogspot.com.

        If John does not wish to make this case, I would welcome the editor responsible for Blog Central to make the case for him.

        • Pete,

          I understand your point of view and admit that due to my own leaning I much enjoy John’s blog. I don’t necessarily agree with him, and at times find his analyses simplistic.

          But blogs are not articles, hence they are not peer-reviewed or subject to fact-checking. Whether they are on Maclean’s or blogspot, this does negate that blogs are meant to be personal journals, or diaries. Blogs are not designed to be in academic journals, so they are not subject to stringent regulations. You may object to some of Mr. Parisella’s vocabulary, which you are entitled to, but your critiques themselves are simplistic. You cry for sources and question his use of “seduce” and then you ask him to explain how politicians seduce other politicians. I doubt articles in The Economist would include a paragraph that explains the promises, cajoling and concessions that politicians do to get what the want. They don’t because they presume their audience has a certain amount of background. John, whose audience have to seek out his blog, makes a similar assumption. There is nothing wrong with this. I don’t object to criticism, in fact I quite enjoy jwl’s comments, though I don’t normally agree with them. But your comments are condescending to Mr. Parisella . He doesn’t need to prove that he belongs on Macleans.ca. Clearly, Macleans feels he belongs there. And most of us agree.

          • Right on , Goog . I tend to agree with you. his blog belongs.

          • Well put Goog. You’re right. Pete Tong seems to take John’s blog as a personal insult. I also feel John’s blog belongs right where it is.

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