Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Barack Obama

Highs: In some respects, Barack Obama's second year in office was full of victories. The President signed his landmark health care overhaul and financial-regulatory-reform bill into law, fulfilling two of his biggest campaign promises. During his second Oval Office address, in August, Obama delivered on another promise — marking the end of combat operations in Iraq. In December, the President again showed his political prowess with a compromise deal to extend the Bush tax cuts to all Americans and also extend unemployment insurance through 2011, developed with input from GOP leaders, that garnered him some praise for its bipartisan, moderate approach.

Lows: 2010 saw record troop casualties during combat in Afghanistan — a war that many observers increasingly believe is unwinnable, but that the President seems unsure how to end. The release of hundreds of thousands of classified cables by Wikileaks throughout the year only exacerbated Obama's troubles with leaders in the region. Even Obama's legislative victories came with a high price, including the sizable Democratic losses in the midterm elections, forcing the party to relinquish control of the House to the Republicans. Many viewed the historic defeat as a strong rebuke not just of the White House's ambitious policy agenda, and inattention to the floundering economy, but also of Obama's aloof governing style and lack of connection with everyday Americans. In December, the President tried to extend the olive branch, hammering out a bipartisan tax cut deal with Republican leaders to extend Bush-era breaks as well as unemployment insurance. And while the measure is expected to pass Congress, many members of Obama's Democratic base see the compromise as a major concession to the GOP, and further proof that Obama is not willing to fight for the party's core principles.

Feifei Sun