President Obama enters the last week before Christmas facing a full and challenging agenda.
THE NEWTOWN TRAGEDY
Sunday the President faced one of his saddest duties, attending yet another memorial service resulting from one more horrific mass shooting.
The President headed to Newtown, Connecticut to try to be ‘Healer-in-Chief’ again for the families of the schoolchildren and adults who were brutally murdered on Friday.
President Obama with two children of his own needed no help preparing his speech for Newtown.
He spoke from the heart without a prompter to those grieving and sobbing in the assembly and to a nation looking for a way to absorb what had occurred.
“If we are honest with ourselves we are not doing enough to prevent this… we must change”
He said he will use whatever power he has to help make this change.
The question here is the same one the US has faced time and time again –
What if anything can be done to address the proliferation of guns – specifically assault weapons – in The United States of America?
This is a scoldingly hot political issue, since there are constitutional elements at stake and all the parties involved in the debate are torn and fractured over who is right!
The National Rifle Association (“NRA”) is one of the strongest lobbying organizations in America. Although they participate in educational activities on responsible gun ownership they are clearly the premiere gun lobby organization.
If a politician is not ‘pro-gun’ they might face strong opposition from the NRA – who actively support challengers to defeat any gun control supporting candidates in any given election.
The NRA grades every Member of Congress on their support or lack there of on the issue of gun rights.
Since we don’t know what really happened in Newtown as of yet, it is difficult to make a clear recommendation as to what the proper legislative response should be – if you could even get that legislation through this terminally gridlocked Congress.
With still limited information we are told the common elements of this tragedy are once again assault weapons and a troubled youth.
The guns used in this random killing seem to have been legally purchased so it is not clear that legislation restricting gun purchases alone would have effectively addressed this problem.
In all of these cases there is a troubled person at the center of the tragedy who has not been helped or even identified by our current social safety network.
So mental health issues in America, which always take a back seat, may again need to be seriously addressed.
The horrific nature of this incident along with Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech and Tucson as well, may finally force legislators in America to take some action.
The President does not have to face another election so it could be the time for some real leadership.
Let’s see if Mr Obama can stir up enough legislative support from a Congress who will face their constituents and the NRA in less than two years.
THE FISCAL CLIFF
In addition to coping with the emotionally draining Newtown tragedy, the President still has the Fiscal Cliff issue which is not going away.
It seems that Speaker John Boehner has raised the stakes on Friday by offering to strike a deal that would raise tax rates on millionaires – generating $ 460 billion over the next decade.
Apparently the Speaker has also attempted to push any fight over the federal debt limit off for a year by pairing this with a promise of dollar for dollar spending cuts.
Although this offer has supposedly been rejected by the Administration since it would not raise enough cash and would do nothing to extend unemployment benefits, some Democrats see this as a breakthrough indicating that serious negotiations may have begun.
So there is possibly some hope yet for a deal before year’s end.
OBAMA’S SECOND TERM CABINET
Last week Mr Obama’s trial balloon of UN Ambassador Susan Rice as the leading nominee for Secretary of State lost all its air.
In the meantime, it seems Senator John Kerry will be Mr Obama’s choice.
Kerry who is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is imminently qualified. He is also well liked by his fellow Senators – like Republican Senator John McCain.
In addition to his qualifications and the fact that he is well liked by his colleagues in the Senate who must approve the nomination, the Republicans would love to see Kerry leave the Senate giving them a chance at a special election in Massachusetts to fill his seat.
This opens up the possibility that Republican Scott Brown, who lost his seat to Elizabeth Warren on 6 November, will get another shot.
There is already a lot of speculation as to which Democrat would try for this seat.
– Vicky Kennedy (Teddy’s Widow)
– Rep Ed Markey (Senior Congressman) the list goes on.
Obama may want a quick confirmation of Kerry especially since it was announced that Secretary Clinton was not only sick with a stomach flu this week but had fallen and hit her head sustaining a concussion.
Due to her illness other State Department Senior Officials will testify before the House Foreign Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committees on Benghazi this Wednesday.
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