WSJ: Obama Setbacks Cast Pall Over His Second-Term Agenda

Wednesday, 02 Jul 2014 12:59 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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President Barack Obama is struggling to find a political agenda for the remainder of his troubled second term following recent setbacks, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The embattled Obama administration had hoped to have a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year, but that appears dead in the water, while thousands of illegal immigrants are flooding across the Rio Grande into the United States every month.

His signature healthcare reform bill, the Affordable Care Act, has been weakened by the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling that allows private companies to opt out of covering contraception for their employees on religious grounds.

The decision was the second blow lately to the Obama administration from the Supreme Court following a ruling stating that the president’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board without Senate approval were illegal.

Obama has attempted to fight back by telling Congress that he plans to act alone using executive orders to push through his policies, which led to Republicans attacking his go-it-alone plans and House Speaker John Boehner threatening to sue to stop the president’s overreach.

Obama has also gone on the attack against Republicans by blaming the GOP for creating roadblocks in Washington, while mocking Boehner’s lawsuit, saying, "So sue me."

The accusations have angered Boehner, who has defended the Republican-controlled House’s efforts.

"House Republicans have passed over 40 common-sense jobs bills," said his spokesman Michael Steel, adding that "Democrats led by President Obama" had prevented help getting to Americans.

Obama has recently faced a series of domestic and foreign policy dilemmas, including the crisis in Iraq and Syria, the Ukraine confrontation with Russia, the Veterans Affairs scandal, and the turmoil over IRS targeting of conservative groups.

"It's a buzz saw of challenges that have come flying at the White House all at once, so now the question is, how do they handle it?" Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist, told the Journal. "What is their strategy? They may have one, but they've not done a spectacular job communicating it."

Kofinis said the administration must lead the way instead of just reacting to tough situations that come along. "The president has significant power to say this is what we're going to do and then do it," he said.

Obama’s problems have resulted in a recent plunge in his approval ratings, which now stand at a lowly 41 percent in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, which listed his foreign policy rating at a new low of 37 percent.

The setbacks have forced Obama to place more importance on easing the economic burdens of the middle class and hanging onto the Senate in the midterm elections, while also making an effort to handle the current crises overseas.

The president has recently sent in troops to Iraq to advise the war-torn country on how to defend itself from the extremist fighters of the Islamic Sate of Iraq and Syria, and he has also committed to stepping up U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war, according to the Journal.

Robert Gibbs, Obama's former press secretary and longtime adviser, said the president "has to make the best of what he has, and that is why they've got to double down on talking every day on setting an economic vision and a message from where he sees the country moving."

But Don Stewart, the spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that instead of getting laws passed, the White House has moved into the "blame mode" by recklessly pointing the finger at Republicans for the country’s woes.

"It doesn't give you a lot of hope and optimism for completing big things when his answer to problems is to attack everyone else," he told the Journal.

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