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Barack Obama page 2 (continued from page 1)

Economic policy

On February 17, 2009, Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a $787 billion economic stimulus package aimed at helping the economy recover from the deepening worldwide recession.[143] The act includes increased federal spending for health care, infrastructure, education, various tax breaks and incentives, and direct assistance to individuals,[144] which is being distributed over the course of several years.

In March, Obama's Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, took further steps to manage the financial crisis, including introducing the Public-Private Investment Program for Legacy Assets, which contains provisions for buying up to $2 trillion in depreciated real estate assets.[145]

Obama intervened in the troubled automotive industry[146] in March 2009, renewing loans for General Motors and Chrysler to continue operations while reorganizing. Over the following months the White House set terms for both firms' bankruptcies, including the sale of Chrysler to Italian automaker Fiat[147] and a reorganization of GM giving the U.S. government a temporary 60% equity stake in the company, with the Canadian government shouldering a 12% stake.[148] In June 2009, dissatisfied with the pace of economic stimulus, Obama called on his cabinet to accelerate the investment.[149] He signed into law the Car Allowance Rebate System, known colloquially as "Cash for Clunkers", that had mixed results.[150][151][152]

Although spending and loan guarantees from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department authorized by the Bush and Obama administrations totaled about $11.5 trillion, only $3 trillion had actually been spent by the end of November 2009.[153] However, Obama and the Congressional Budget Office predict that the 2010 budget deficit will be $1.5 trillion or 10.6% of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) compared to the 2009 deficit of $1.4 trillion or 9.9% of GDP.[154][155] For 2011, the administration predicted the deficit will slightly shrink to $1.34 trillion, while the 10-year deficit will increase to $8.53 trillion or 80% of GDP.[156] The most recent increase in the U.S. debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion was signed into law on February 12, 2010.[157] On August 2, 2011, after a lengthy congressional debate over whether to raise the nation's debt limit, Obama signed the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011. The legislation enforces limits on discretionary spending until 2021, establishes a procedure to increase the debt limit, creates a Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to propose further deficit reduction with a stated goal of achieving at least $1.5 trillion in budgetary savings over 10 years, and establishes automatic procedures for reducing spending by as much as $1.2 trillion if legislation originating with the new joint select committee does not achieve such savings.[158] By passing the legislation, Congress was able to prevent an unprecendented U.S. government default on its obligations.[159]

The unemployment rate rose in 2009, reaching a peak in October at 10.1% and averaging 10.0% in the fourth quarter.[160] Following a decrease to 9.7% in the first quarter of 2010, the unemployment rate fell to 9.6% in the second quarter, where it remained for the rest of the year.[160] Between February and December 2010, employment rose by 0.8%, which was less than the average of 1.9% experienced during comparable periods in the past four employment recoveries.[161] GDP growth returned in the third quarter of 2009, expanding at a 1.6% pace, followed by a 5.0% increase in the fourth quarter.[162] Growth continued in 2010, posting an increase of 3.7% in the first quarter, with lesser gains throughout the rest of the year.[162] In July 2010, the Federal Reserve expressed that although economic activity continued to increase, its pace had slowed and its Chairman, Ben Bernanke, stated that the economic outlook was "unusually uncertain."[163] Overall, the economy expanded at a rate of 2.9% in 2010.[164]

The Congressional Budget Office and a broad range of economists credit Obama's stimulus plan for economic growth.[165][166] The CBO released a report stating that the stimulus bill increased employment by 1–2.1 million,[166][167][168][169] while conceding that "It is impossible to determine how many of the reported jobs would have existed in the absence of the stimulus package."[170] Although an April 2010 survey of members of the National Association for Business Economics showed an increase in job creation (over a similar January survey) for the first time in two years, 73% of the 68 respondents believed that the stimulus bill has had no impact on employment.[171]

Within a month of the 2010 midterm elections, Obama announced a compromise deal with the Congressional Republican leadership that included a temporary, two-year extension of the 2001 and 2003 income tax rates, a one-year payroll tax reduction, continuation of unemployment benefits, and a new rate and exemption amount for estate taxes.[172] The compromise overcame opposition from some in both parties, and the resulting $858 billion Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 passed with bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress before Obama signed it on December 17, 2010.[173]

Health care reform

Obama called for Congress to pass legislation reforming health care in the United States, a key campaign promise and a top legislative goal.[174] He proposed an expansion of health insurance coverage to cover the uninsured, to cap premium increases, and to allow people to retain their coverage when they leave or change jobs. His proposal was to spend $900 billion over 10 years and include a government insurance plan, also known as the public option, to compete with the corporate insurance sector as a main component to lowering costs and improving quality of health care. It would also make it illegal for insurers to drop sick people or deny them coverage for pre-existing conditions, and require every American carry health coverage. The plan also includes medical spending cuts and taxes on insurance companies that offer expensive plans.[175][176]

On July 14, 2009, House Democratic leaders introduced a 1,017-page plan for overhauling the U.S. health care system, which Obama wanted Congress to approve by the end of 2009.[174] After much public debate during the Congressional summer recess of 2009, Obama delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress on September 9 where he addressed concerns over his administration's proposals.[177] In March 2009, Obama lifted a ban on stem cell research.[178]

On November 7, 2009, a health care bill featuring the public option was passed in the House.[179][180] On December 24, 2009, the Senate passed its own bill—without a public option—on a party-line vote of 60–39.[181] On March 21, 2010, the health care bill passed by the Senate in December was passed in the House by a vote of 219 to 212.[182] Obama signed the bill into law on March 23, 2010.[183]

Gulf of Mexico oil spill

On April 20, 2010, an explosion destroyed an offshore drilling rig at the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, causing a major sustained oil leak. The well's operator, BP, initiated a containment and cleanup plan, and began drilling two relief wells intended to stop the flow. Obama visited the Gulf on May 2 among visits by members of his cabinet, and again on May 28 and June 4. He began a federal investigation and formed a bipartisan commission to recommend new safety standards, after a review by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and concurrent Congressional hearings. On May 27, he announced a 6-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling permits and leases, pending regulatory review.[184] As multiple efforts by BP failed, some in the media and public expressed confusion and criticism over various aspects of the incident, and stated a desire for more involvement by Obama and the federal government.[185]

Foreign policy

In February and March, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made separate overseas trips to announce a "new era" in U.S. foreign relations with Russia and Europe, using the terms "break" and "reset" to signal major changes from the policies of the preceding administration.[186] Obama attempted to reach out to Arab leaders by granting his first interview to an Arab cable TV network, Al Arabiya.[187]

On March 19, Obama continued his outreach to the Muslim world, releasing a New Year's video message to the people and government of Iran.[188] This attempt at outreach was rebuffed by the Iranian leadership.[189] In April, Obama gave a speech in Ankara, Turkey, which was well received by many Arab governments.[190] On June 4, 2009, Obama delivered a speech at Cairo University in Egypt calling for "a new beginning" in relations between the Islamic world and the United States and promoting Middle East peace.[191]

On June 26, 2009, in response to the Iranian government's actions towards protesters following Iran's 2009 presidential election, Obama said: "The violence perpetrated against them is outrageous. We see it and we condemn it."[192] On July 7, while in Moscow, he responded to a Vice President Biden comment on a possible Israeli military strike on Iran by saying: "We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East."[193]

On September 24, 2009, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to preside over a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.[194]

In March 2010, Obama took a public stance against plans by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to continue building Jewish housing projects in predominantly Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.[195][196] During the same month, an agreement was reached with the administration of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with a new pact reducing the number of long-range nuclear weapons in the arsenals of both countries by about one-third.[197] The New START treaty was signed by Obama and Medvedev in April 2010, and was ratified by the U.S. Senate in December 2010.[198]

Iraq War

During his presidential transition, President-elect Obama announced that he would retain the incumbent Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, in his Cabinet.[199]

On February 27, 2009, Obama declared that combat operations would end in Iraq within 18 months. His remarks were made to a group of Marines preparing for deployment to Afghanistan. Obama said, "Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."[200] The Obama administration scheduled the withdrawal of combat troops to be completed by August 2010, decreasing troops levels from 142,000 while leaving a transitional force of 35,000 to 50,000 in Iraq until the end of 2011. On August 19, 2010, the last United States combat brigade exited Iraq. The plan is to transition the mission of the remaining troops from combat operations to counter-terrorism and the training, equipping, and advising of Iraqi security forces.[201][202] On August 31, 2010, Obama announced that the United States combat mission in Iraq was over.[203]

War in Afghanistan

Early in his presidency, Obama moved to bolster U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan.[204] He announced an increase to U.S. troop levels of 17,000 in February 2009 to "stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan", an area he said had not received the "strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires".[205] He replaced the military commander in Afghanistan, General David D. McKiernan, with former Special Forces commander Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal in May 2009, indicating that McChrystal's Special Forces experience would facilitate the use of counterinsurgency tactics in the war.[206] On December 1, 2009, Obama announced the deployment of an additional 30,000 military personnel to Afghanistan.[207] He also proposed to begin troop withdrawals 18 months from that date.[208][209] McChrystal was replaced by David Petraeus in June 2010 after McChrystal's staff criticized White House personnel in a magazine article.[210]

Israel

During the initial years of the Obama administration, the U.S. increased military cooperation with Israel, including a record number of U.S. troops participating in military exercises in the country, increased military aid, and the re-establishment of the U.S.-Israeli Joint Political Military Group and the Defense Policy Advisory Group. It was reported high-ranking defense officials from both countries had been making an unusual number of trips between the two countries, including Ehud Barak. Part of the military aid increase in 2010 was to fund Israel's missile defense shield. Before Adm. Mike Mullen, now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had visited Israel for over a decade, but in 2010 he made two trips, bringing his total to four.[211]

In 2011, Obama's Ambassador to the United Nations vetoed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements, with the U.S. the only nation on the Security Council doing so.[212] Like previous American presidential administrations, Obama supports the two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the 1967 borders with land swaps.[213]

Libya

In March 2011, as forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi advanced on rebels across Libya, formal calls for a no-fly zone came in from around the world, including Europe, the Arab League, and a resolution[214] passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate.[215] In response to the unanimous passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 on March 17, Gaddafi who had previously vowed to "show no mercy" to the citizens of Benghazi[216]—announced an immediate cessation of military activities,[217] yet reports came in that his forces continued shelling Misrata.[218] The next day, on Obama's orders, the U.S. military took a lead role in air strikes to destroy the Libyan government's air defense capabilities in order to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly-zone,[219] including the use of Tomahawk missiles, B-2 Spirits, and fighter jets.[220][221][222] Six days later, on March 25, by unanimous vote of all of its 28 members, NATO took over leadership of the effort, dubbed Operation Unified Protector.[223] Some Representatives[224] questioned whether Obama had the constitutional authority to order military action in addition to questioning its cost, structure and aftermath.[225][226]

Osama bin Laden

 

Starting with information received in July 2010, intelligence developed by the CIA over the next several months determined what they believed to be the location of Osama bin Laden in a large compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a suburban area 35 miles from Islamabad.[227] CIA head Leon Panetta reported this intelligence to President Obama in March 2011.[227] Meeting with his national security advisers over the course of the next six weeks, Obama rejected a plan to bomb the compound, and authorized a "surgical raid" to be conducted by United States Navy SEALs.[227] The operation took place on May 1, 2011, resulting in the death of bin Laden and the seizure of papers and computer drives and disks from the compound.[228][229] Bin Laden's body was identified through DNA testing,[230] and buried at sea several hours later.[231] Within minutes of the President's announcement from Washington, DC, late in the evening on May 1, there were spontaneous celebrations around the country as crowds gathered outside the White House, and at New York City's Ground Zero and Times Square.[228][232] Reaction to the announcement was positive across party lines, including from former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush,[233] and from many countries around the world.[234]

2010 midterm election

Obama called the November 2, 2010 election, where the Democratic Party lost 63 seats in, and control of, the House of Representatives,[235] "humbling" and a "shellacking".[236] He said that the results came because not enough Americans had felt the effects of the economic recovery.[237]

Cultural and political image

Obama's family history, early life and upbringing, and Ivy League education differ markedly from those of African-American politicians who launched their careers in the 1960s through participation in the civil rights movement.[238] Obama is also not a descendant of American slaves.[239] Expressing puzzlement over questions about whether he is "black enough", Obama told an August 2007 meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists that "we're still locked in this notion that if you appeal to white folks then there must be something wrong."[240] Obama acknowledged his youthful image in an October 2007 campaign speech, saying: "I wouldn't be here if, time and again, the torch had not been passed to a new generation."[241]

Obama is frequently referred to as an exceptional orator.[242] During his pre-inauguration transition period and continuing into his presidency, Obama has delivered a series of weekly Internet video addresses.[243]

According to the Gallup Organization, Obama began his presidency with a 68% approval rating[244] before gradually declining for the rest of the year, and eventually bottoming out at 41% in August 2010,[245] a trend similar to Ronald Reagan's and Bill Clinton's first years in office.[246] He experienced a small poll bounce shortly after the death of Osama bin Laden, which lasted until around June 2011, when his approval numbers dropped back to where they were prior to the operation.[247][248][249] Polls show strong support for Obama in other countries,[250] and before being elected President he has met with prominent foreign figures including then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair,[251] Italy's Democratic Party leader and then Mayor of Rome Walter Veltroni,[252][253][254] and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.[255]

According to a May 2009 poll conducted by Harris Interactive for France 24 and the International Herald Tribune, Obama was rated as the most popular world leader, as well as the one figure most people would pin their hopes on for pulling the world out of the economic downturn.[256]

Obama won Best Spoken Word Album Grammy Awards for abridged audiobook versions of Dreams from My Father in February 2006 and for The Audacity of Hope in February 2008.[257] His concession speech after the New Hampshire primary was set to music by independent artists as the music video "Yes We Can", which was viewed 10 million times on YouTube in its first month[258] and received a Daytime Emmy Award.[259] In December 2008, Time magazine named Barack Obama as its Person of the Year for his historic candidacy and election, which it described as "the steady march of seemingly impossible accomplishments".[260]

On October 9, 2009, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that Obama had won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples".[261] Obama accepted this award in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 2009, with "deep gratitude and great humility."[262] The award drew a mixture of praise and criticism from world leaders and media figures.[263][264] Obama is the fourth U.S. president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the third to become a Nobel laureate while in office.

In a 2010 Siena College poll of 238 presidential scholars, Obama was ranked 15th out of 43, with high ratings for imagination, communication ability and intelligence and a low rating for background (family, education and experience).[265]

Family and personal life

In a 2006 interview, Obama highlighted the diversity of his extended family: "It's like a little mini-United Nations", he said. "I've got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I've got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher."[266] Obama has a half-sister with whom he was raised, Maya Soetoro-Ng, the daughter of his mother and her Indonesian second husband and seven half-siblings from his Kenyan father's family – six of them living.[267] Obama's mother was survived by her Kansas-born mother, Madelyn Dunham,[268] until her death on November 2, 2008,[269] two days before his election to the Presidency. Obama also has roots in Ireland; he met with his Irish cousins in Moneygall in May 2011.[270] In Dreams from My Father, Obama ties his mother's family history to possible Native American ancestors and distant relatives of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War.[271] Obama's great-uncle served in the 89th Division that overran Ohrdruf,[272] the first of the Nazi concentration camps to be liberated by U.S. troops during World War II.[273]

Obama was known as "Barry" in his youth, but asked to be addressed with his given name during his college years.[274] Besides his native English, Obama speaks Indonesian at the conversational level, which he learned during his four childhood years in Jakarta.[275] He plays basketball, a sport he participated in as a member of his high school's varsity team.[276]

Obama is a well known supporter of the Chicago White Sox, and threw out the first pitch at the 2005 ALCS when he was still a senator.[278] In 2009, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the all star game while wearing a White Sox jacket.[279] He is also primarily a Chicago Bears fan in the NFL, but in his childhood and adolesence was a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and recently rooted for them ahead of their victory in Super Bowl XLIII 12 days after Obama took office as President.[280]

In June 1989, Obama met Michelle Robinson when he was employed as a summer associate at the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin.[281] Assigned for three months as Obama's adviser at the firm, Robinson joined him at group social functions, but declined his initial requests to date.[282] They began dating later that summer, became engaged in 1991, and were married on October 3, 1992.[283] The couple's first daughter, Malia Ann, was born on July 4, 1998,[284] followed by a second daughter, Natasha ("Sasha"), on June 10, 2001.[285] The Obama daughters attended the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. When they moved to Washington, D.C., in January 2009, the girls started at the private Sidwell Friends School.[286] The Obamas have a Portuguese Water Dog named Bo, a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy.[287]

Applying the proceeds of a book deal, the family moved in 2005 from a Hyde Park, Chicago condominium to a $1.6 million house in neighboring Kenwood, Chicago.[288] The purchase of an adjacent lot and sale of part of it to Obama by the wife of developer, campaign donor and friend Tony Rezko attracted media attention because of Rezko's subsequent indictment and conviction on political corruption charges that were unrelated to Obama.[289]

In December 2007, Money magazine estimated the Obama family's net worth at $1.3 million.[290] Their 2009 tax return showed a household income of $5.5 million—up from about $4.2 million in 2007 and $1.6 million in 2005—mostly from sales of his books.[291][292]

Obama tried to quit smoking several times, sometimes using nicotine replacement therapy.[293][294][295] Michelle Obama said he successfully quit in early 2010.[296][297]

Religious views

As he described in The Audacity of Hope, Obama is a Christian whose religious views developed in his adult life. He wrote that he "was not raised in a religious household". He described his mother, raised by non-religious parents (whom Obama has specified elsewhere as "non-practicing Methodists and Baptists"), to be detached from religion, yet "in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I have ever known". He described his father as "raised a Muslim", but a "confirmed atheist" by the time his parents met, and his stepfather as "a man who saw religion as not particularly useful". Obama explained how, through working with black churches as a community organizer while in his twenties, he came to understand "the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change".[298]

In an interview with the evangelical periodical Christianity Today, Obama stated: "I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life."[299]

On September 27, 2010, Obama released a statement commenting on his religious views saying "I'm a Christian by choice. My family didn't—frankly, they weren't folks who went to church every week. And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me in the church. So I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead—being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me."[300][301]

Obama was baptized at the Trinity United Church of Christ in 1988 and was an active member there for two decades.[302] Obama resigned from Trinity during the Presidential campaign after controversial statements made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright became public.[303] After a prolonged effort to find a church to attend regularly in Washington, Obama announced in June 2009 that his primary place of worship would be the Evergreen Chapel at Camp David.[304]

Author:Bling King
Published:Sep 24th 2011
Modified:Feb 27th 2013
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