By Geoffrey Garrett
U.S. President Barack Obama first shot to global prominence in 2004 as a uniter, not a divider. But while most of the blame for Washington’s gross dysfunction will probably lie at the feet of the Republican right, that hates Obama with a rare passion, the Obama presidency may well soon be over – at least in terms of his ability to move the policy dial at home and abroad.
Most commentary on the U.S. government shutdown concerns the apparent disregard some pig-headed Republicans have for the harm it could do to the American and global economies. While the shutdown will likely be relatively short and its impact quite small, attention is already shifting to a potentially much more dangerous repeat performance over raising the debt ceiling in a couple of weeks.
No matter how ugly the politics gets over the next fortnight, and no matter how much the Tea Party cannot bear to see Obamacare implemented, good sense will most inevitably win out. The small number of moderate Republicans Obama needs will ultimately agree yet again to raise the debt ceiling rather than face the spectre of sovereign default by the world’s largest economy and its reserve currency, with Republican Speaker John Boehner already saying as much.
Budget and debt ceiling impasse is a very big story. But an even bigger one is quietly looming. The Obama presidency may well soon be over, at least in terms of his ability to move the policy dial at home and abroad over the remaining three years he has in the White House. When Obama was re-elected less than 12 months ago, his second term agenda was ambitious and clear.
First, domestic: Roll out Obamacare, regulate more tightly gun ownership to reduce senseless human carnage, give legal status to more than ten million undocumented migrants, and chart a long term path to a balanced budget via tax increases as well as spending cuts.