Stephen Collinson: Obama Redefines The Lame Duck Presidency
At the time in his tenure when most presidents fret over their waning clout, Barack Obama is redefining the concept of the lame duck. His administration has been energized by his aggressive use of executive power. Some of the most hard-won achievements of his early years in office are beginning to pay off. And his political luck seems to be turning. With a term and a half behind him, Obama’s prospects are brighter than they have been for years. Though Republicans paint Obama’s glass as half full, and argued that the administration is overstating its record, that hasn’t rattled the man in the Oval Office.
The new sense of serenity in the White House solidified this week with figures showing that more than 16 million people have now signed up for health plans under Obamacare, the president’s top domestic achievement. That news came on the heels of booming jobs growth numbers and a tangible feeling that after years of slow recovery, things are looking up economically. The unemployment rate, at 5.5%, is at its lowest point since May 2008, before the Great Recession. And the U.S. economy is in much better shape than most of its rivals in the developed world. The White House believes that its initiatives on community college funding, the president’s moves to regulate the Internet and actions to reshape the immigration system are delivering a political dividend,
reasoning that many Americans are happy to see gridlock broken and the president taking action, a factor that might be partly reflected in Obama’s better poll numbers. Obama, meanwhile, more relaxed than ever. He’s speaking about race more freely than any time since he became president, notably in his speech on the 50th anniversary of the Selma civil rights marches earlier this month. And the White House counts a climate accord with China and a visit to India earlier this year as big wins for its strategy of rebalancing foreign policy towards Asia. The GOP, for its part, is learning what the White House found out years ago — that winning the Senate last year, and with it control of both chambers of Congress, brings its own problems.
Eric Schultz (@Schultz44) March 18, 2015