The two sides of Barack Obama’s presidency to date have been demonstrated vividly in recent days.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the debacle at Copenhagen, particularly given the recalcitrance of the Chinese, who apparently regard monitoring of levels of carbon emissions within their borders as a strictly internal affair. But Obama has come in for more blame than most, particularly from left-wing critics eager to see more continuity than disconnection with his Republican predecessor. As a demonstration of how Obama will never be able to meet expectations, no matter how carefully managed, it was clear and instructive, and the problem will dog his presidency.
But overnight, Senate Democrats managed to secure the votes needed to pass a health-care reform Bill, one of the priorities of the Obama Administration. It was failure in health care that derailed the first Clinton term, and a failure this time around could well have confirmed the doubts of many, that Obama was more Jimmy Carter than Jack Kennedy. Instead, by dint of horse-trading, compromise and all the other tools of law-making in Congress, he is is within sight of an historic achievement, even if the resulting reforms are a long way short of ideal.
The capacity to get important, controversial legislation through the US Congress is a key attribute of good and great presidencies. The fact that this was secured in the teeth of a furious industry lobbying campaign campaign that costs hundreds of millions of dollars augurs well for the capacity of Obama and Congressional Democrats to implement further progressive reforms. The Obama Presidency has so far been a damp squib, but health-care reform is a major step forward.
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