warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Obama Reflects On Year's End

Callie Schweitzer |
December 22, 2010 | 7:13 p.m. PST


When Congress adjourned Wednesday night, President Obama let out a big sigh of relief.

After receiving what he called a "shellacking" in November's midterm elections when Democrats lost control of Congress, the 44th president was on his way to Hawaii with a bit more pep in his step.

"This has been the most productive post-election period we've had in decades," Obama said at a news conference Wednesday. "If there's any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it's that we are not doomed to endless gridlock."

And some seem to agree that Obama's lame-duck session may have been one of the most productive "in recent memory."

The Hill reports:

Senate Democrats and Republicans joined together to pass a string of major accomplishments, including an $858 billion tax relief and unemployment benefits package, repeal of the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and ratification of the New START Treaty.

[Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid also ticked off Democrats accomplishments before the midterm election, which include passage of a $787 billion economic stimulus package, sweeping healthcare reform and an overhaul of the financial services industry.

Obama scored another more major victory Wednesday when both houses of Congress passed the 9/11 first responders bill just before adjourning.

Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, hailed the deal as a “Christmas miracle.”

The president's slew of bipartisan successes "were all but unthinkable just seven weeks ago" after the midterms.

In "The Comback Kid?" National Journal's Aamer Madhani speaks to Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University.

"Judging this lame-duck session by other lame-duck sessions, I approached it thinking it would be a period of very limited accomplishment,” Baker said. “I have to confess, I was very surprised. I imagined that the [political] process was on hold, but somehow the benign spirit of Christmas settled on the combatants on Capitol Hill.”

But Matt Bai of the New York Times indicates big fights may be on the horizon: "Deposed House Democrats forced a series of votes before their gavels could be pried from their hands, while Republican leaders fumed over the last-minute lawmaking and darkly hinted at revenge. If the Capitol had a caption, it would read: 'To be continued. …'”

Reid called the lame-duck session "the most productive of its kind. Why? Because we heard the message the American people sent us last month: They don’t want us to sit around and waste their time. They want us to work together and work for them.”

Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed, calling it "quite an exhilarating week."

She was optimistic for the future of bipartisanship, "As long as the American people have a high unemployment rate, as long as families are looking for jobs, as long as people have uncertainty about their children's education and about their own economic security our work is far from over."

Obama, too, expressed great interest in continuing to walk the line between "Yes, we can!" and "Yes, he caved."

"I know there will be tough fights in the months ahead," he said. "But my hope heading into the new year is that we can continue to heed the message of the American people and hold to a spirit of common purpose in 2011 and beyond."

But a rough road does await Obama and the Democrats when Congress resumes in January.

POLITICO reports:

Obama has scored more legislative victories than first seemed likely following the Democrats’ drubbing in the midterm elections. But the session winding down this past week also highlighted, in painful ways, the narrow lanes in which Obama is operating — cutting deals on terms that were largely set by other Washington players.

He’s confined on the right by the incoming Republican House majority and the reality of deep budget deficits. He’s confined on the left by his own sullen Democrats, including many liberals who will be quick to protest if they feel Obama is selling them out or cynically lurching to the center.

Obama’s cramped circumstances, according to numerous veterans of previous White Houses and other experts, highlight his urgent need to reinvent his presidency — discarding the Congress-focused strategy of the first two years and coming up with new and more creative ways to exercise power and set the national agenda. 

So can a man who ran on a campaign of change become the change he needs most now?



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.