Let’s hear it for President Obama. He’s been smiling from big ear to big ear during Christmas for his victories in the lame-duck session of Congress.
Even the Republican side must be wondering how this president, from the party who had a resounding defeat in the mid-term elections, had such a successful after-election dealing with the Congress.
Written off as weak and ineffectual after the elections, President Obama came back much stronger than even his most ardent supporters thought possible. Faced with a much-adjusted Congress next year, which will no longer have a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, nor even as great a Democratic strength in the Senate, the president scored major victories in the lame-duck time.
The earliest indication of success was Obama’s pushing through a continuation of the temporary Bush-era tax measures, ensuring that in the depths of the recession all American taxpayers will not be faced with higher taxes. That in itself was a major victory, especially in the face of the looming deadline at the end of the year. That alone would have been a major positive mark on the presidential agenda.
But he came back much more vigorous than even thought, eliminating the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rhetoric, to the applause of the liberal and gay community and liberals everywhere.
And not to be denied, even while the Republican Senate leadership was against the START nuclear arms treaty, the President gained a mighty victory with a 71-26 vote on this measure, of course, gaining the support of several Republican senators, including Georgia’s own Johnny Isakson. What was thought of by many as a lost cause, especially as Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would oppose it, came through as a sound Obama victory.
All this had to make the president much more confident for the next two years, knowing that he can gain victory in the face of defeat. Some will point out that in some cases, it meant that the president had to abandon his staked-out positions, and seek a more middle ground, in order to secure these votes and gain passage of some of these measures. But that is nothing less than compromise, something that the president has had a more difficult time doing earlier in the first two years of his term. He has apparently now recognized that while he would like to govern from his comfortable position at the left of center, he can gain much by moderating his positions slightly, when governing from the center, and be more successful.
The new Congress will come in determined to make sure that the president will have strong opposition to many proposals he would like to see passed. Yet this is as expected. While the more-Republican Congress would like to make wholesale changes in office, there is still a Democratic-controlled Senate, and ever-present ability of the president to exercise the veto.
It all probably adds up to a scene which is best for one particular group—the people of the United States. For shared power is usually far better than raw power of all-Democratic control, which in effect, the president had with a Democratic Congress for the first two years of his term.
The new set-up of shared power, especially taken in view of the president’s recent victories, looms well for our country. And who knows, working from the center, the president may be smiling more in 2011-12, as he was during Christmas, 2010.