Found on the Internets …
Lots of folks are noticing that the president is having a pretty good month. Republicans are beside themselves because they expected him to curl up in a fetal position in a corner after the midterm election. Instead, with a series of executive orders, new government agency rules, diplomatic initiatives, and the results of his policies yielding positive benefits, the president is finishing the year strong.
November 10: Surprised everyone by announcing his support for strong net neutrality.
November 11: Concluded a climate deal with China that was not only important in its own right, but has since been widely credited with jumpstarting progress at the Lima talks last week.
November 20: Issued an executive order protecting millions of undocumented workers from the threat of deportation.
November 26: Signed off on an important new EPA rule significantly limiting ozone emissions.
December 15: Took a quiet victory lap as Western financial sanctions considerably sharpened the pain of Vladimir Putin’s imploding economy.
December 16: Got nearly everything he wanted during the lame duck congressional session, and more. Democrats confirmed all important pending nominees, and then got Republican consent to several dozen lesser ones as well.
December 17: Announced a historic renormalization of relations with Cuba […]
All of these things are worthwhile in their own right, of course, but there’s a political angle to all of them as well: they seriously mess with Republican heads. GOP leaders had plans for January, but now they may or may not be able to do much about them. Instead, they’re going to have to deal with enraged tea partiers insisting that they spend time trying to repeal Obama’s actions. They can’t, of course, but they have to show that they’re trying. So there’s a good chance that they’ll spend their first few months in semi-chaos, responding to Obama’s provocations instead of working on their own agenda.
“Provocations”, indeed. Democrats like to call them “good government initiatives”.
Paul Waldman at The American Prospect: “… the man certainly looks like he’s been set free. He doesn’t have to worry about getting reelected or about losing Congress (done both), so he can go back to see what fell off the to-do list and do things that he’s always wanted to, whether they were politically risky or not.”
But Greg Sargent at WaPo notices something else about “Obama Unbound”: it is not just “cementing a legacy” but setting up some stark contrasts between Democrats and Republicans going into the 2016 election cycle:
When you step back and look at the degree to which these actions are beginning to frame , it’s striking. Hillary Clinton has now endorsed Obama’s move on Cuba. GOP presidential hopefuls are lining up against it. She has vowed to protect Obama’s actions on climate “at all costs,” a stance that could take on added significance if a global climate treaty is negotiated next year. Potential GOP presidential candidates will likely vow to undo those actions and line up against U.S. participation in such a treaty. Clinton has come out in support of Obama’s action to shield millions from deportation. GOP presidential hopefuls have lined up against it, effectively reaffirming the party’s commitment to deporting as many low-level offenders and longtime residents as possible.
So to the extent that there is an “Obama coalition” to pass on to the Democratic nominee in 2016, his actions have created policy positions that the Republicans are already on board as opposing. These positions are popular with youth and minorities, groups that will be courted in the 2016 general election.
Not just a good month, a good year …
In six years, he has appointed a whopping 307 judges, who will shape the law for decades after he leaves office. The final 12 district judges were confirmed in the closing night of the Senate session on Tuesday, Reid’s final move before Democrats surrender control of the chamber.
“The Obama Administration and the United States Senate have given Americans the best possible holiday present: the gift of justice,” said Nan Aron, the president of the progressive law and policy group Alliance For Justice.
A total of 132 judges were confirmed in the 113th Congress – the most since the 1970s.
Perhaps most significant is his appointment of 53 judges on federal circuit courts, which have the last word on most matters of law. When Obama took office, just one of 13 appeals courts had a majority of Democratic-appointed judges on the active bench. Today, nine of 13 appeals courts have a majority of Democratic appointees.[…]
Obama has named the first-ever Native American woman and Indian-American federal judge. He has placed more female and Hispanic judges than any previous president, and more Asian-American and openly gay judges than all other presidents combined.
“Before Obama, 59 percent of the active judges were white males. Now it’s down to 51 percent. That’s quite a change in 6 years,” [Russell Wheeler, an expert on federal courts at the Brookings Institution] Wheeler said. “You probably want to have a judiciary that looks like the people it’s serving, and if they’re all white males then you don’t have that.”
President Obama took office in the depths of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Six years later, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, and the decisive actions he took early on – to bring the economy back from the brink, to save the auto industry, and to build a new foundation for middle-class growth – we’ve made real progress.
The economy grew at a combined 4.2% pace in the second and third quarters of this year, the strongest six-month period of growth in more than a decade. American businesses have added new jobs for 57 consecutive months, the longest streak of private-sector job creation on record, for a total of 10.9 million new jobs. The pickup in the pace of job growth this year has come in industries with higher wages. And wages across the economy are rising – a very welcome sign for millions of American families. […]
Health Care: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year alone. Meanwhile, due in part to reforms in the law, the price of health care has been rising at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years.
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