President Obama seems to be a man of many contradictions. He also seems to make commitments that he later withdraws in the face of opposition, acts that appear to constitute a form of appeasement.
President Obama has threatened many times to veto any bill that does not raise taxes for those making more than $250,000 per year. Yet, he has offered to raise the barrier to $400,000. He has avoided suggestions that Social Security would be cut to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” but his latest proposal to modify the cost of living adjustment to Social Security is even at odds with his own Democratic base.
During the health care (Obamacare) negotiations earlier in his first term, he entertained at various times including a “public option” like Medicare as a choice. But, in the face of Tea Party opposition, he quickly gave up the idea.
President Obama also promised to tackle the immigration issue head on in his first term, yet nothing was done about it other than a temporary version of the Dream Act that allows “immigrants who were brought to the United States before they turned 16 years old, are no older than 30, have been in the U.S. for at least five years, have been convicted of no serious crime, and have a high-school diploma, a GED, or a stint in the U.S. military … reprieve from deportation and work-authorization papers.”
After the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut, the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, “today is not the day for a debate on gun control.” After the outrage that followed the shooting and when Senator Feinstein of California came up with a legislative proposal to ban assault weapons, finally President Obama came on board with a proposal to look into the issue, ordering Vice President Biden to be the point man on the effort.
As for his Cabinet appointments for the second term, he seemed to push for the appointment of Susan Rice as Secretary of State, but in the face of opposition from some Republicans in the Senate, the appointment was derailed when Ms. Rice took herself out of consideration for the post.
Currently, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel seems to be President Obama’s first choice for Secretary of Defense. But, in the face of opposition by AIPAC and the usual Israel supporters in the Senate, this appointment seems to be unlikely. The mortal sin of Mr. Hagel seems to be that he did not show die-hard devotion to Israel. In fact, he once said, “I’m a United States Senator, not an Israeli Senator.” He has apparently also held “less-than-hawkish positions on Iran,” having voted against some sanction on that country which have accomplished nothing. As a result, the rumors are now that President Obama is unlikely to appoint Mr. Hagel as Secretary of Defense.
In foreign affairs, President Obama made several high-profile speeches early in his first term to make good with Muslim countries. However, other than leaving Iraq, where he had no choice, he seems to have aggravated the relationship with various Islamic countries. In Afghanistan, he has greatly expanded the war, leading to the extreme hatred of the Afghan population for the U.S. and NATO for occupying of their country.
On Iran, while during the 2008 elections President Obama promised to talk to “our adversaries,” he has made no serious effort at negotiation. In fact, he has engineered the harshest possible sanctions on Iran that have led to shortages of critical medicines in Iran now. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, “[The] West wants to ‘pressure’ Iran regime, but spare its citizens.” But, the effect of the sanctions have been exactly the opposite.
Before the Iraq war, President Obama gave a speech opposing the war on that country. Yet, besides the war in Afghanistan, American drones are killing scores of innocent people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places.
According to a study released in September, “U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed far more people than the United States has acknowledged, have traumatized innocent residents and largely been ineffective.” The study was conducted by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law. So, it is not clear why President Obama is continuing these strikes.
Finally, Syria is turning into a humanitarian disaster and President Obama is doing nothing to end this calamity for the Syrian people. A rebellion that grew out of the Arab Spring has turned into a barbaric war between the security forces and a mélange of Syrian dissidents and foreign mercenaries that are armed and trained by Turkey with the approval of Washington, with financial support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. More than 40,000 people have died in this conflict. But, the Obama administration continues to support the rebels, among whom an Al Qaeda faction is now prominent.
It is hoped that President Obama will alter his approach to politics and foreign affairs during his second term. But, so far, there seems to be no evidence that any change in strategy will be forthcoming.