While we were all enjoying our Winter Break, President Barack Obama was sworn into his second term as president of the United States of America. This inauguration was different than the earlier 2009 event. There was less adulation in 2013 and more of an acceptance of reality. Obama started 2008 with the bold proclamation of change. His agenda however, was hampered by a divided legislator and political realities. Republicans made it an agenda to stop Obama from having a second term. This was a sentiment popularly verbalized by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Navigating through the political labyrinth of Washington also proved troubling to President Obama. One of his most famous broken promises was his vow to close Guantanamo Bay. The president signed an executive order to close the controversial prison in 2009, but was met with staunch opposition. The plans were to move the terror suspects to a prison in Thompson, Ill. The House Armed Services Committee challenged this by prohibiting centers of detention in the U.S.
Obama has had his fair share of trial and error during his four years. However, the problems he faced did not stop his reelection. Now in this new administration we may see a different, bolder Obama emerge. Being free of re-election woes, now gives Obama a chance to make his legacy. I am not sure what Obama is going to do, but I do know what I want him to do.
It is time that comprehensive reforms to immigration happen. For years politicians have pushed this issue aside. It is always controversial, but we need to settle this issue. The good news is that it will be settled soon. The Republicans and Democrats are working on a bipartisan bill. Obama stated that his vision of the bill will give a pathway to citizenship for the country’s illegal immigrants which amount to around 11 million. This is most likely happening because both parties saw what a large effect that the Hispanic vote had on the 2012 election. Because of that, Republicans will not be as ardent opponents of this reform. This does not mean the Republicans have to swallow a completely bitter pill. Obama has promised to increase security on the borders. Perhaps this is the same Obama who is willing to make concessions, but now he has more room to pursue his agenda.
The second term also gives Obama the opportunity to correct the errors of the last four years, although this is unlikely. As stated above, Guantanamo Bay remains open. This detention center is one of terrorists’ greatest weapons. We have given them a propaganda piece that they can use to scare populations into supporting them. Not to mention it takes away any moral high ground. How can we claim to represent democracy when we use vindictive, human rights violating means to enforce it? Obama has tried before, and perhaps he can finally close the facility. Speaking of curbing human rights the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, was one of the most egregious failures of the Obama Administration. A law that can jail American citizens without trial is an atrocious piece of legislation; it goes against the most basic principles of this country. Obama signed, but claimed he would never use it. This was quite an odd statement that contradicted Obama’s promises upon entering office. I know that I should not be shocked that a politician had empty promises, but NDAA is a disgrace. Obama himself seems to be at odds with the law, yet has taken no steps to stop it. Hopefully in the next four years Obama will take a stand for civil liberties.
On the foreign policy field, Obama can make some improvements. The time table for Afghanistan is set for 2014, an acceptable time table, although we should leave there as soon as possible. The Senate has even voted to accelerate the withdrawal. The sooner we leave, the sooner our brave men and women can come home. A main objective that Obama should accomplish in his Afghan strategy is pressure Afghan President Hamid Karzai to cooperate with regional warlords in the area.
There is also the issue of drone strikes. Obama has used drone strikes to take out terrorist threats. This is very problematic. For every one terrorist we do kill, dozens of innocent civilians die with them. The use of drones turns public sentiment of the people in the area against the United States. Like Guantanamo Bay, it is used as a propaganda piece to turn foreign citizens against our country. Obama should tone down his hawkish policies, especially since the Iranian crisis will most likely only get worse.
Finally there is the economy. A plan must be put into effect that would stop another financial calamity from crippling this country. Obama is off to a good start with letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire. An incredible amount of revenue was lost with these tax cuts. Obama did pass the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 which brought back certain tax cuts, but kept taxes on the highest marginal income bracket. While we are adding revenue, there must also be spending cuts. Cuts in the military should be the first. Obama has announced he will not increase defense spending and may cut the Pentagon budget. The current defense budget is $695.7 billion. We could easily “trim the fat” and more from the budget without losing vital components of our military. Some other costly programs will also have to be trimmed. Higher revenue and fiscal responsibility can bring this economy back to full force.
This is basically my wish list for Obama’s next four years. Some of it will come true, and some of it will not. It is not easy to get your agenda done in Washington, even if you are the president. These lessons were taught to Obama in his first four years. Hopefully he has learned from them. I know these four years taught me a lot about politics. Obama has done a good job in his four years thus far and I expect the same or better in the next four years to come.
Jack Barnett is a fourth-year student majoring in history and political science. He can be reached at JB723722@wcupa.edu.