Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Obama not taking bipartisan tack after election

President Obama won a narrow election victory over Mitt Romney earlier this month, but if voters expected the president to take a more conciliatory tone and seek a middle ground with Republicans, they are likely to be disappointed. In spite of the fact that President Obama is the only president to have been reelected with less support than he won in his first election, he has doubled down on the policies that cost him much of his popularity in his first term.

One of the first actions taken by the Obama Administration after the election was to reopen talks with the committee drafting the United Nations arms trade treaty. According to Reuters, the talks on the treaty will resume on March 18. The treaty was scheduled to be signed last July, but opposition from groups concerned that the treaty would infringe on Second Amendment rights led the Obama Administration to table the treaty until after the election.

An unnamed U.S. official told Reuters, “We will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of our citizens to bear arms.” Nevertheless, many Second Amendment activists believe that the treaty could subject the U.S. arms industry and Second Amendment rights to the control of the U.N. Critics also point out that it could make it difficult for legitimate freedom fighters to defend themselves against tyrannical governments.

The president has also taken a hard line with respect to negotiations for a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. Yahoo News reports that when talks resume this week that the president will ask Republicans for $1.6 trillion dollars in tax increases over ten years. This is double the $800 billion in new taxes that President Obama had sought during the 2011 budget negotiations. The president’s request is also higher than the automatic tax increases scheduled to kick in if the country reaches the fiscal cliff. According to Businessweek, the automatic tax increases are estimated at $536 billion.

The fiscal cliff also includes $100 billion in spending cuts for 2013 according to Businessweek. Many of these cuts would affect the defense budget. The White House did not specify what level of spending cuts President Obama would be willing to accept under a compromise. As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, the emergency stimulus spending of 2009 has now become a permanent part of the baseline federal budget.

Annual deficits for the federal government have been in excess of a trillion dollars for each year of President Obama’s administration. Combined spending cuts of $100 billion and tax increases of $500 billion would still not allow the federal government to operate in the black.

Two of President Obama’s potential second-term cabinet picks also seem calculated to provoke Republican opposition. Susan Rice, the apparent frontrunner for Secretary of State, and John Kerry, a potential Secretary of Defense, have already drawn strong opposition.

Susan Rice, currently the ambassador to the United Nations, has been criticized for her role in the administration’s misstatements in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. A statement by Rice that the attack was the result of an anti-Islamic video was featured prominently in the days after the attack. Subsequent information revealed that the president and administration officials knew as the attack was occurring that it was a terrorist attack, not the result of a spontaneous mob.

President Obama reacted to the criticism with outrage, telling the Wall Street Journal, “If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous.”

John Kerry is also a controversial nominee. Kerry was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, losing to George W. Bush. Kerry is perhaps most well known for his 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in which he said that American soldiers in Vietnam “had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam….” During the 2004 campaign, a number of veterans came forward to dispute Kerry’s account.

CNS News also notes that Kerry has long supported engagement with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Kerry met with Assad at least six times and shortly before the Syrian uprising began in March 2011 he was still voicing his belief that “Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it.”

Democrats control the senate, which is responsible for confirming presidential appointments. Republicans do have enough support to filibuster controversial nominees, however.

President Obama’s second term is still several months away from its official beginning, but the battle lines are already being drawn. It seems that voters who hoped that giving the president a second chance to make good on his promises of bipartisanship will probably be not be satisfied in the near term.


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