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Showing posts from December, 2009

Obama's real job: cleaner and group therapist

Business Times - 31 Dec 2009


Obama's real job: cleaner and group therapist

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

AS ONE of the most exhilarating - and yet depressing - years in the history of Washington comes to an end, many pundits are already writing the political obituary of the leading character in this chapter: Barack Obama is predicted to become a one-term president.

Indeed, some of Mr Obama's former groupies have become very melodramatic, depicting him as the Fallen Messiah or as the God that Failed, and insisting that they will not be stuffing envelopes or knocking on doors in Iowa on his behalf if Mr Obama decides to run for a second term in 2012.

It is certainly too early to start making political bets on the outcome of the next presidential race or, for that matter, on the Congressional midterm election in 2010.

But the collapse of the Cult of Obama and the recognition that he has become a 'normal' political figure and will probably not turn out to be a '…

Fall-out of Obama health-care reforms

Business Times - 29 Dec 2009


Fall-out of Obama health-care reforms

Despite passage of Bill, intense political fight over issue has weakened public support for US president

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

AFTER several months of nasty public debate and heated Congressional deliberations - marked by the political rise of Tea-Party crowd and the notorious 'birthers' and 'deathers' - the US Senate passed a modest but solid healthcare reform bill that could extend coverage to 31 million uninsured Americans.

The final passage of the bill, on a 60-39 vote along party lines with no Republican support, is seen as a huge political victory and a historic achievement for US President Barack Obama.

Most observers expect the Senate and the House of Representatives to fuse their respective versions of the health-care bill when lawmakers return to Washington early next year, and a final draft of the legislation will be signed by Mr Obama probably before he delivers his State of …

Senate, US public hold card

Business Times - 25 Dec 2009

PERSPECTIVE
Senate, US public hold card

That the US and China reached an agreement not to agree and to impose it on all others at the climate summit is probably the only good news that came out of Copenhagen

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

CRITICS of former US president George W Bush's unilateralist approach to foreign policy had assumed that President Barack Obama's commitment to pursuing a more multilateralist global agenda would finally help produce international agreements on a variety of issues, including climate change.

Hence, if the unilateralist Mr Bush opposed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and refused to submit the treaty for Senate ratification, then the multilateralist Mr Obama would play a leading role in getting a new climate-change accord approved in Copenhagen this year and would be able to mobilise American public and Congressional support for a new UN framework aimed at combating global warming.

Or those at least were the expectati…

Obama is doing all right; grade him well

Business Times - 22 Dec 2009


Obama is doing all right; grade him well

His admirers-turned-bashers should remember that he didn't promise to lead a revolution

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IF YOU have been surfing American television news channels this past week, there is a good chance that in addition to commercials inviting you to take part in the shopping spree of the holiday season, you would have encountered another of those pompous pundits 'grading' US President Barack Obama's first year in office.

In fact, Mr Obama himself was asked to grade his performance during an interview with television host Oprah Winfrey. Mr Obama graded himself a 'good, solid B+' and maybe an A- if his healthcare reform bill ended up being approved by Congress.

'I think that we have inherited the biggest set of challenges of any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt,' Mr Obama explained. He was assigning himself only a B+ because of the things that remain undon…

Obama's tiny change we can believe in

Business Times - 17 Dec 2009


Obama's tiny change we can believe in

Lack of progress on healthcare and financial reform shows it's business as usual in Washington

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama and his aides have described their effort to reform an ailing and costly American healthcare system as the centrepiece of the ambitious social and economic programme of a president who had promised during his election campaign that it would not be 'business as usual' in Washington. When he occupied the White House, he pledged to deliver 'a change we can believe in'.

Indeed, the popular narrative among Mr Obama's supporters has been that a major overhaul of the nation's US$2.5 trillion healthcare system - America being the only large industrialised country where access to healthcare is not guaranteed by the state - would be another milestone in the implementation of a progressive agenda that goes back to president Theodore Roosevel…

Posting on the Huffington Post

Check-out my post on the Huffington Post, including the most recent one.

Tackling joblessness vs federal debt

Business Times - 10 Dec 2009


Tackling joblessness vs federal debt

Obama has to decide which is his administration's main priority in the coming months

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

FACING public discontent over continuing high unemployment, which stands now around 10 per cent, US President Barack Obama is now trying to demonstrate his commitment to tackling the problem that could endanger Democratic control of Congress if economically distressed Americans decide to vote for Republicans in the midterm elections next year.

Touting the success of his stimulus and economic recovery efforts, Mr Obama laid out what sounded like a new stimulus-style jobs programme. Speaking at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based liberal think tank on Tuesday, Mr Obama proposed a set of new ideas, including tax cuts for small business, new infrastructure spending on highways and rail, and a so-called 'cash for caulkers' programme that would give rebates to people who retrofit or …

Irate Americans want Bernanke out

Business Times - 08 Dec 2009


Irate Americans want Bernanke out

With unemployment at 10%, the US is searching for a scapegoat to blame

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

THAT the American economy seems to be in the midst of a very bumpy recovery was made clear last week with reports indicating that while new claims for jobless benefits fell for a fifth straight week, retail sales and activity in the service sector, however, were also down last month.

With unemployment at 10 per cent, job creation continued to be the focus in Washington, and President Barack Obama, who hosted a White House forum on that issue last week, told reporters that he 'was not interested in taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to creating jobs'.

Unfortunately this has turned the same institution that had been lionised during the economic-boom years - the US Federal Reserve - to being depicted in Washington and around the country as the chief villain for America's economic woes.

Poor, poor…

Escalating to drawdown in Afghanistan? Dream on

Business Times - 03 Dec 2009


Escalating to drawdown in Afghanistan? Dream on

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

FIRST, the good news (or sort of): In his much-anticipated address on Tuesday outlining his strategy for Afghanistan, President Barack Obama refrained from employing the kind of fantasy-infused rhetoric about democratising the Middle East that his predecessor tended to apply when marketing his own war plans.

Indeed, Mr Obama did not sound very Wilsonian or messianic when calling on the American people to support his plan to deploy 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan within six months. In the tenor of the speech, Mr Obama could only be described as the anti-Bush: very cautious and very methodical; not an idealist, but a realist.

After all, it has taken him several months to deliberate on the Afghanistan strategy, including numerous meetings with his national security advisers and outside experts. 'As your commander-in-chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, …