President Barack Obama greets Michaele Salahi before the State Dinner Nov. 24, 2009. (White House/Samantha Appleton)
The world at the start of 2010 looks a lot different than it did when it was on the verge of 2009. For one, we have avoided economic collapse. It's also likely that in the new year, President Barack Obama will have delivered on his campaign promise to reform American health care -- somewhat. If he is lucky, we will begin to see an economic resurgence that will steady his job approval rating and calm Democratic fears of a GOP rout in the fall midterm elections. Republicans, looking better now than they did six months ago, will continue to attack Democrats for the exploding deficit and the decision to try to spend America out of the recession. And if Republicans are lucky, the economy will not recover quickly. But we will have to wait to see how all that turns out.
It's a strategic gamble Barack Obama is making by going to Copenhagen at the end of the U.N. climate-change conference instead of at its start. The president's idea is to close the deal rather than open discussions with a long list of unlikely promises. That leaves Todd Stern, America's lead representative in Denmark, to fight a rearguard action against claims that the United States owes climate-change reparations in the meantime. If our disproportionate emissions levels have caused damage to countries in the developing world, we should have to pay the cost, they argue. It’s a damned mess.
President Barack Obama greets business leaders at the close of the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum , Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
In between this week's Afghanistan speech at West Point and next week's Copenhagen-Oslo double feature, the president fit in a jobs summit at the White House and a symbolic trip to Allentown, Pennsylvania, (where the restlessness was handed down) to talk about getting Americans back to work. It is a task that will likely dominate the rest of Obama's first term and play a critical role in whether he can convince voters to award him a second.
Despite the hoopla that preceded the Afghanistan speech and the second-guessing that followed, the Afghanistan policy will not be nearly as politically consequential in the short term as the president's plan for new job growth.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will win his motion to proceed on a health-care reform package that should shave $127 billion off the federal budget deficit over the next decade -- the legislation will come to the floor of the Senate before Thanksgiving. In practical terms, that means the Obama administration will likely get to mark its first year in office with a remarkable set of legislative triumphs that, in addition to health care, could include some kind of financial reform legislation and maybe even a climate change bill.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (The Republican House Conference)
The GOP has officially declared its 2010 resurgence, and why not? This is as good a time as any. The party won all the big statewide elections last week, and it's pulling ahead in Gallup's generic congressional ballot this week. For the first time this year, more people say they will vote for the Republican candidate in next year's midterm congressional election than for the Democrat. No wonder conservatives are happy.