Pres­i­dent Barack Obama toasts ‘sea­son of progress’ af­ter big wins

The Pak Banker - - International -

WASHINGTON: Buoy­ant in po­lit­i­cal vic­tory, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Wed­nes­day wrapped up a long, rough year in Washington by re­joic­ing in a rare, bi­par­ti­san "sea­son of progress" over tax cuts, na­tional se­cu­rity and civil jus­tice. Half­way through his term, he served no­tice to his skep­tics: "I am per­sis­tent."

The pres­i­dent who strode on stage for a news con­fer­ence cut a re­mark­ably dif­fer­ent fig­ure than the Obama who, just seven weeks ago, held a sim­i­lar event in which he somberly ad­mit­ted he had taken a "shel­lack­ing" in the midterm elec­tions and needed to reeval­u­ate. This time, Obama was about to jet off to a Hawai­ian hol­i­day vacation know­ing he had se­cured the kind of leg­isla­tive wins that rarely come so bun­dled as they just did, par­tic­u­larly in a post­elec­tion law­mak­ing ses­sion.

Obama spoke on the same day that he found enough al­lies in both par­ties to get Se­nate rat­i­fi­ca­tion of a nu­clear arms treaty with Rus­sia, a vote watched around the world as a test of in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity and pres­i­den­tial clout. He also signed land­mark leg­is­la­tion to al­low gays to serve openly in the mil­i­tary, call­ing him­self over­whelmed by the enor­mity of the moment.

And that was on top of other achieve­ments, in­clud­ing a hard-fought deal to ex­tend tax cuts and un­em­ploy­ment in­surance even as it piled on more debt, a broad food se­cu­rity bill, a trade deal with South Korea and dec­la­ra­tions of progress in the widen­ing war in Afghanistan.

"If there's any les­son to draw from these past few weeks, it's that we are not doomed to end­less grid­lock," Obama said. "We've shown in the wake of the Novem­ber elec­tions that we have the ca­pac­ity not only to make progress, but to make progress to­gether." Obama was able to get the votes he needed in a lame-duck ses­sion in which his party still con­trolled the House and Se­nate, re­tir­ing or ousted mem­bers could act know­ing they would no longer face vot­ers, and the po­ten­tial of a po­lit­i­cally dev­as­tat­ing tax hike on Jan. 1 forced law­mak­ers into ac­tion. None of those fac­tors will be in play come Jan­uary when Repub­li­cans take con­trol of the House and have a greater voice in the Se­nate as well.

To a nation long tired of po­lit­i­cal games­man­ship, Obama used the moment to try to put him­self above it - and to chal­lenge both par­ties to join him. He said vot­ers wanted this "sea­son of progress," promis­ing to stick with that mis­sion and hop­ing "my Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can friends will do the same."

He also did not get all he wanted, los­ing some fights and swal­low­ing a two-year ex­ten­sion of tax cuts for wealth­ier peo­ple as part of the tax deal.

Obama un­der­scored his agenda ahead, much of it amount­ing to un­fin­ished prom­ises: deficit re­duc­tion, en­ergy in­no­va­tion, im­mi­gra­tion re­form, the clos­ing of the Guan­tanamo Bay prison, ed­u­ca­tion and re­search in­vest­ments, and the biggest item of all: find­ing ways to cre­ate more jobs for mil­lions of hurt­ing Amer­i­cans.

In the course of ques­tion­ing, Obama re­vealed that his po­si­tion on gay mar­riage is "con­stantly evolv­ing." He has op­posed such mar­riages and sup­ported in­stead civil unions for gay and les­bian cou­ples. The pres­i­dent said such civil unions are his base­line - at this point, as he put it. "This is some­thing that we're go­ing to con­tinue to de­bate, and I per­son­ally am go­ing to con­tinue to wres­tle with go­ing for­ward," he said. -Afp

LONDON: Planes are seen at Heathrow Air­port. Nor­mal op­er­a­tion has re­sumed at air­ports af­ter days of dis­rup­tion due to freez­ing con­di­tions. -Ap

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