Barack Obama’s Crisis-Driven Second Term

From roughly March 6 on the White House has been whiplashed from one foreign policy and national security crisis to another.

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Mark Wilson / Getty Images

President Obama makes a statement at the White House on April 16, 2013 in Washington, DC.

In his January inaugural address sketching out the promise of a second presidential term, here are some things Barack Obama did not mention: Surveillance. Drones. Syria. Chechnya. North Korea. Benghazi. Guantanamo.

And yet from roughly March 6, the day Rand Paul staged his 13-hour Senate filibuster to protest Obama’s drone policies, the White House has been whiplashed from one foreign policy and national security crisis to another. Facing a near constant state of emergency, Obama has been hard-pressed to promote his message on issues like gun control, immigration, health care and the economy.

This week is a case in point. Today Obama will unveil a new set of bold executive actions designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions thought to fuel climate change. Yesterday, the Senate easily approved an amendment to its immigration bill that suggests the law will pass that chamber. And as of yesterday, the implementation of Obamacare is less than 100 days away.

(MORE: TIME POLL: Americans Believe Country Heading In Wrong Direction)

But the national media remains obsessed with the cinematic saga of Edward Snowden, believed to be hiding out in Moscow in preparation for an escape to Latin America. For weeks now, Snowden and his leaks about government surveillance have drowned out competing domestic stories.

“It’s certainly true that you’ve had a surprising number of foreign policy crises,” says Tommy Vietor, who until recently was a White House national security spokesman. “It distracts media attention, and the White House from what they want to be talking about, which is the economy and jobs.” Vietor added that today’s climate change announcement is “enormously important… I hope it gets the attention that it deserves.”

Some of the issues now barging in on Obama’s presidency are ones he spent much of his first term holding at bay. His failure to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp had fallen out of the news until inmates there recently began dramatic hunger strikes requiring force feeding. For two years, Obama kept his distance from Syria’s brutal civil war, until Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons and his recent, Hezbollah-aided battlefield gains forced Obama to adopt a tougher policy.

Meanwhile Rand Paul’s filibuster and CIA director John Brennan’s confirmation hearings, shed new light on Obama’s reliance on drone strikes against suspected terrorists, and the costs and benefits of that policy. That debate—along with the latest flurry around Guantanamo–dredged up still-unresolved questions about American power and values in the post-9/11 era, and prompted Obama to deliver a national address on his counterterror policies.

(MORE: Obama’s Second Inaugural: A New Term, a More Progressive Tone)

Other post-9/11 issues were raised by the April 15 Boston marathon bombings, which renewed hard questions about surveillance of Muslim communities and the vigilance of U.S. security agencies. The awful drama in Boston also obscured almost entirely action in Congress on a gun control package that had been one of Obama’s top priorities.

The crises cycle through so quickly that one week’s high drama is nearly forgotten the next, like the brief interlude in April when war with North Korea suddenly seemed fathomable. The new obsession over the NSA leaks has almost blotted out the short-lived frenzy over the Justice Department’s surveillance of Fox News reporter James Rosen. And don’t forget the week or so of mania over the Benghazi talking points, which for a moment had some Republicans talking about impeachment but in retrospect looks a little like Geraldo Rivera’s opening of Al Capone’s vault.

And now comes Edward Snowden, and his leaks about government collection of domestic phone call data, surveillance of communications by terror suspects overseas, and alleged American spying on rivals and allies alike. Snowden’s overseas odyssey this week has also focused new attention on tensions in America’s relationships with China and Russia.

But driving the news isn’t essential to presidential success. Obama’s poll numbers have been resilient over the past few weeks. Immigration reform, another of his key priorities, is steadily advancing. The economy continues to improve. And action on climate change would address one of his major unfulfilled promises from his 2008 campaign.

Vietor recalls that Obama has endured crisis periods before–including early 2011, when the Japanese tsunami and the beginning of the Arab Spring fixated the media and the White House–and regained the political initiative. But he worries about his former White House colleagues, and the constant middle-of-the-night calls from the Situation Room he knows they’re fielding. “It’s been tough for those guys,” Vietor says. But with Edward Snowden still on the run, Syria descending into chaos and terrorists continuing to plot against America, the days of crisis may not be over anytime soon.

MORE: Man of His Word: Obama Likely to Deliver on His Inaugural Promises (Again)

121 comments
RightWingNut4
RightWingNut4

I wonder where that urge for Amnesty came from. Barely 3% of American people consider immigration to be their top issue. 

redonevet6568
redonevet6568

". . . limit greenhouse gas emissions thought to fuel climate change". Thought? Until this is proven beyond the shadow of a  doubt, we are bat-crap crazy to risk our economy. But that's not what's really going on, don't you know. For Obama it's never been about "saving" the economy, it always been about crashing the economy to reboot as a marxist economy. 

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” ~ H.L. Mencken



VivianBennett-Cohan
VivianBennett-Cohan

Is this the same  TIME  that shoved Obama down our throats for the last 5 years.   Who has been on the cover of TIME more in last  5 years than  BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA,  HUMM HUMMM HUMMMMMM .

DCPackerBacker
DCPackerBacker

It's interesting how Vietor says that the administration wants to be talking about the economy and jobs but nowhere does Crowley list that as one of the Administration's priorities.  It's as though his comment is completely out of place in the article.  Oh wait, that's because it is!

GordonRoth
GordonRoth

I'd love to know which polls this guys been looking at.

AuntieObama
AuntieObama

Obama is too busy trying to silence or destroy all domestic opposition to be bothered with foreign policy.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

This was already brought up in the 08 campaign. An unvetted man who wont reveal his records but rather what is made by the presstituting media, who nobody knows, with a legislator with no legislative record. Rather it is the vice presidential candidate on the other side who was hammered time after time with lies and insinuations, despite an excellent record as Governor. Now the jig is up where Obama has to perform. He failed, Miserably. Who is to blame ? He was elected because of the color of his skin and endorsed by a corrupt press despite of contradictions between image and reality.


scott_w_hyland
scott_w_hyland

So here we are with yet another crisis, of Obama's making.  What did Obama expect when he did an end-run around the Russians by training and arming al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria?  Did he somehow convince himself Putin would regard him as a trusted partner?  This is but the latest episode of the tragicomedy that is the Obama administration since it came to power in 2009... drift from crisis to crisis with no resolution.  This, America, is the bitter fruit of electing unqualified, narcissistic, self-worshipping community organizers into high office.  And so, Obama's response to the building flap vs. Putin, along with the plethora of other scandals rocking the administration?  "Let's pivot to 'climate change.'"

The Obama experiment failed, folks... miserably and disastrously.  Libs, you know it as well... you just have yet to make the admission.

reynmeistr
reynmeistr

"The crises cycle through so quickly that one week’s high drama is nearly forgotten the next..."  

This assertion by our crack Time reporter neatly exposes the DoltStream Media's estimation of the public --  they truly and well believe the Sheeple bleat and stampede in one direction, then the other, unable to appreciate the sum total of the depredations by ObeyMe's United Stasi of America.


ChandraPanchabhikesan
ChandraPanchabhikesan

America's relations with Russia and China seems to follow a predictable pattern. Putin's uncompromising stance is  certainly complicating matters. Snowdon's treacherous acts have been unneessary intrusions. Obama has a full plate! Along with John Kerry, he will try and convince the Russians that encouraging whistle-blowers to tarnish America's image will not serve American-Russian relations. It is sad that Putin  does not believe in fostering good relations with America. Cooperation not confrontation! 

ballsnow
ballsnow

Dear Valentine, haven't you ever heard of GW Bush?  The last time I checked, this man almost single handidly wrecked this country forever, and it doesn't matter what anybody does, this country is not coming back.  Big Business owns this country, and every politican in it.  What the politicans can't sell of this country, they're giving away.  Check the new immigration bill.  My condolences to people with children, because they'll never know that this country was once for the people, and by the people, but that's gone forever.  Clinton and NAFTA, Bush and Big Business, and Obama and the illegals, have killed our country.

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

JUST AS AIGON FELL SO QUICK......THE EVENTS WERE AHEAD OF THE NEWS.......

OBAMA ......DESTROYING THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA THROUGH HIS POLICIES AND ACTIONS.....ACHIEVED IN RECORD TIME.......IT TOOK THE NATION 150 YEARS TO BE GREAT.......AND ONLY 4 YEARS PLUS TO BE THROWN IN THE MUD BY OBAMA......

WHY?......BECAUSE HE HATES THE WHITE ANGLO SAXONS WHO COLONIZED THE WORLD........READ" DREAMS FROM MY FATHER"........OBAMA'S ONLY.....BOOK HE WROTE .....PERSONALLY.....AUTOBIOGRAPHY......HIS ANCESTORS HATED THE BRITISH .....AND NOW......OBAMA IS DOING THE REVENGE OF THE KENYAN!

HE HEATES WHITES......ANY WHITE MAN SUPPORTING HIM ARE STUPID......READ THE BOOK.....ITS TITLE SHOULD HAVE BEEN..."I HATE WHITEY....AND GIVEN THE CHANCE.....I AM GONNA GIVE IT TO WHITEY".....

CONGRATULATIONS BARRY THE DOPE SMOKER.......YOU ARE ALMOST THERE.......YOU WILL BRING CIVIL WAR TO AMERICA......YOU....AND YOUR ALLIES.....THE UNIONS.....ETC.....

GOD HELP AMERICA !

VALENTINE, WORLD HISTORIAN, MILITARY HISTORIAN, COMEDIAN.....LOL

JimStarowicz
JimStarowicz

Actually he and many others did foresee these and many others due to the bushco policies and rubber stamped by the tepub congresses, who now are turning them into the 'high drama' with the help of the still equally supporting of then press, not just the FOX which actually isn't even close to journalism, who created the hatreds and enhanced the needs to seek out what used to be relatively easily found as issues arose!! So keep plugging away Time and the rest, you haven't lost that bushco glee yet have ya!!

drudown
drudown

@redonevet6568

Sure, right. 

That's the "agenda"- not to actually reduce the deficit....but to implement a "Marxism agenda"

What you Tea Baggers are saying may be aptly summarized as follows: the issue is really "inefficient use of tax revenue collected" but then start talking about "citizens having more money in their pockets", i.e., those are two different things entirely. By simply cutting revenue to the State, it doesn't "fix" the problem referenced initially. If anything, it opens the door to more "undue influence" by campaign contributors to ensure that their pet projects receive the lion's share of funding- that is, out of the State's limited resources. Tell me, why is a short-term tax increase to specifically subsidize, say, job creation (see, e.g., Japan "paying" unemployed citizens to collect deer scat) in order to drive consumption and reduce the amount of welfare recipients. Obviously, these jobs could further infrastructure and involve substantive training. Moreover, US corporations could be given subsidies to HIRE more workers and/or help subsidize hazardous waste disposal.

In short, with revenue...all things are possible.

Second thing. Boehner and his ilk erroneously presuppose that if tax revenue is "given back to the People via lower taxes" they aren't going to have to use said money (i.e., after tax earnings that wasn't collected) to pay for the eliminated services via "austerity". By way of example, if you "cut" pre-school funding (see, e.g., "Sequester cuts"), isn't it true that US taxpayers are going to just spend money on the same programs that were cut, i.e., thereby "cannibalizing" consumption? That is, presumably those after-tax dollars would be circulated elsewhere- thereby driving consumption. So, it is really disingenuous to assert "cutting necessary services" leads to more consumption when the services are, in fact, necessary as education.

The same is true of the GOP's obstinate refusal to endorse Obamacare. Tell me, how is the competitive pricing component alone not going to lead to more after-tax dollars being directed to consumption in other areas? Of course it is. More egregiously, to have huge pools of uninsured (see, e.g., illegal immigrants in CA) simply waltz in to ER rooms unequivocally DRIVES UP Health Care costs. So, again, your ilk can pay lip service to "free market" and "anti-Socialist" ideology all you like- but the fact remains that if legislation REDUCES the out-of-pocket cost to consumers AND enables people with pre-existing conditions to access affordable Health Care, why, pray tell, should the US taxpayers "stay the course" with the current system that the CBO alleges will (literally) swallow the majority of the discretionary budget? It doesn't make sense.

I "get" that people shouldn't be given handouts but you can't "outsource" (as W did) the majority of our Industrial base abroad and then cry foul when welfare dependency increases at home. Sorry, that is not intellectually honest. Nor is the claim that we can "cut spending" and balance a budget via "austerity". Please. Show me an example in the real world of that actually working.

Speaking of "austerity", tell me, how "well" is that working out for Europe? Or do you blindly believe lobbyists (a la Grover Norquist) that we should listen to people and entities with a financial bias instead of the lessons of History? I fancy.

Speaking of History, there is no doubt whatsoever that the entire GOP propaganda that ANY tax increases wreak havoc on the Economy has been unequivocally disproven by the (1) record deficit reduction and (2) stronger US dollar under the current Administration. It makes perfect sense, i.e., if a Nation is borrowing money to administrate its affairs, its own currency goes down in value.

Duh.

Maybe the wealthy people, Mulit-National Corporations and Foreign nations (literally) pouring hundreds of millions into the modern GOP don't want a strong federal government regulating what they can and can't do.

Explain in simple terms why the People don't want it? For a few extra bucks in their pocket? 

"After the event, even the fool is wise." - Viscount Symonds


Wellstone
Wellstone

@ReneDemonteverde You are delusional.  Obama's first term was full of accomplishments, as has been his whole career and life.

IVbagg
IVbagg

Putin, like the rest of the world's leaders...and tyrants, have no respect for Obama. That's why he's giving Obama the finger. Why should Putin concern himself with fostering good relations? Top dogs don't have to concern themselves with compromise. Ever seen Putin bow to or apologize to anyone for his country? I never thought I would miss Jimmy Carter.

Of course Obama has a full plate. What president hasn't? We have a media that was never anything more than Obama lapdogs and who remain slavish in their devotion to Obama, and an American public that is only beginning to understand they got taken in by an empty suit and a huge smile. Something the world leaders....and tyrants, realized from day one.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@ChandraPanchabhikesan What is sad is the overhauling of America`s intelligence apparatus by Obama. He really believes that being nice will get us somewhere. Putin believes in the destruction of America`s standing and power. Obama thinks that by dismantling what Bush set up in the aftermath of Sept 11, will earn us goodwill. Wrong. What Bush set up {strengthening the CIA, separating the powers of the FBI and the CIA, setting up interrogation center in Guantanamo and elsewhere, networking with other countries to monitor terror threats around the globe} was working well. But Obama ran as being anti Bush. Just being anti Bush and the color of his skin got him elected.We have been hit in Boston bombing, mocked and insulted by every tin pot country and terror organizations all over the world. But it is very dangerous to force Obama to act against his nature. He is a lazy incompetent dithering man. Forcing him to act against Putin, who is determined to destroy our standing and power will only result in more mistakes and a dangerous world. Eleciting Hillary will only compound the perilous situation. What our country needs is a stronger spined and decisive leader.

scott_w_hyland
scott_w_hyland

@ChandraPanchabhikesan Please explain how arming al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria in an attempt to violently remove a Russian ally from power is an example of "cooperation."  Obama has some bowing to do.

JinXerFelix
JinXerFelix

@ballsnow 

Sadly you're so beyond mistaken that you must be intentionally ignorant.  GW Bush didn't do it on his own.  Congress approved of everything he did either with true legislation or resolutions.  A Congress which was composed of a majority of Democrats...

And it's the same for Obama, he hasn't done it on his own either - Congress has been complicit.  Though the difference is Obama promised to put an end to all of it but has instead either continued or expanded these operations.

The Patriot Act has been renewed twice under Obama, the first time he couldn't even wait to come home from China to sign it back into law so he asked for special dispensation from Congress to have it signed with the Auto Pen which is the mechanical device used for signing greeting cards...

The Indefinite Detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act which allows US Citizens to be detained without official charges, visitation or representation was signed into law by Obama... who said it should be removed, yet when it was struck down by a lower court Obama ordered the DoJ to file an appeal to have it reinstated in a higher court.


Place your hands upon your buttocks and push with all your might until you see daylight...

HarshTimes
HarshTimes

@ballsnow There you go, another low information democrat invoking the name of Bush in a feeble attempt to deflect any blame from Putin's B**ch, Obama.  

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@valentine.godoflove  As I try to read this, all I can think is "Stupid is as stupid does".   Forrest Gump.  One of the legends of the right wing, but that is a different argument for a different time.

mike3316
mike3316

Hey Valentine .... the middle key of the last column on the left of your keyboard .... it says "Caps Lock" .... hit it and unlike your caps.  People will be more likely to a) take you seriously and b) READ your post - if you do.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@JimStarowicz Maybe that is why your way of thinking survived from the harsh glare of reality. Close your eyes and always pretend it was Bush all along as the main cause of the dire situation we are in now. Despite five years of Obama`s bumbling incompetence you still cannot erase your make believe world from your mind. Forgetting the reason why Obama got elected is because he could rectify Bush`s mistakes and the best man to do it. Now five years after he made the situation worse and still you cling to your illusion Bush is still to blame because Obama cannot undo his supposed mistakes ? So where does this end, that even after Obama finish his eight year term Bush is still the reason for Obama`s incompetence ? Seemed like it.

scott_w_hyland
scott_w_hyland

@JimStarowicz Jim... may we remind you... Bush has been out of office since 2009... change the channel from yesterday... this is OBAMA'S failure.. not Bush's... not the Republicans'.

mike3316
mike3316

Really jim?  Really???  You're actually blaming BUSH because Obama turned our foreign policy on data collection ("spying") on our own people?  OMG!!!  You guys are amaaaazing. Can Obama do NO wrong in your eyes?

paulejb
paulejb

@JimStarowicz 

These people can rattle off this dreck like clockwork. North Korean brain washers have nothing on Team Obama.

JinXerFelix
JinXerFelix

@Wellstone @scott_w_hyland 

Sent Hillary Clinton to Russia with a big red "reset button"?  Check!

Has made the decision and asked for Congress' support to arm the Syrian rebels who are known to be Radical Fundamentalists and have sworn allegiance to al Qaeda?  Check!

Seems like he did do that...

Wellstone
Wellstone

There you go again, trying to prevent anyone from blaming your hero GW.  If you don't understand how long the things he did are going to affect this country, you should not be trusted to cast a vote.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@HarshTimes @ballsnow Because that is only thing they can do. Blaming Bush, after five years of Obama`s incompetency and making a bad situation worse is the only reason they can use to justify the pit hole of garbage we are in now. 

mike3316
mike3316

*unlock* - not unlike.  Though you can feel free to unlike your caps as well.

Wellstone
Wellstone

@scott_w_hyland @JimStarowicz Bush's policies and dreadful errors will licve on forever, as in the 4000 families who have suffered dead sonsa nd husbands, and the 100's of thousands of Iraqis who will curse his name forever.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

@mike3316 The difficulty with 'secret' programs is that anyone can imagine anything they want about them without fear of contradiction. If however, you believe that Obama is engaging in any behavior that GWB didn't then you are a freaking idiot.


JinXerFelix
JinXerFelix

@Wellstone @IVbagg 

Neverminding the fact that Obama didn't *DO* anything except tell other brave men it was ok to kill Osama... respect, how does it work?!

IVbagg
IVbagg

Uh, Wellstone

Osama's dead. Are you saying only the dead would respect Obama?

JinXerFelix
JinXerFelix

@Wellstone 

It's amazing to me how badly liberals fail at logic... because someone attacks Obama they must worship Bush?  Does it ever occur to you that some of us, heck a lot of us, disapprove of them both?

Stop with the GO TEAM BLUE/RED mentality, it's embarrassing and detrimental to our country.

RaulMattingly
RaulMattingly

@Wellstone except that Obama promised to fix things in his first term and failed miserably at it.  The recession ended 6 months into his first term, giving him a clean slate for his policies.

You conveniently forget (or lack the intellectual honesty) the stimulus was supposed to keep U3 under 8%.  It soared to 10%.  U3 was supposed to be in the 5-6% range now... It's well over 7% and isn't the true 11% because record numbers of Americans are no longer considered part of the labor force, the government simple stopped counting people.  Record numbers are on food stamps, welfare, and disability.  GDP was supposed to be in the 4-5% range.  Obama's average GDP is pathetic.  If you double his average, you don't get to GW's average... and GW had the worst average in 60 years!!  Printing and borrowing is the only thing keeping Wall St. afloat which is ironic since Obama is supposedly a champion of the poor, yet the number of poor are increasing under Obama.  We've seen record deficits 4 years running and record debt result in downgrading the credit of the nation for the first time ever..  The excuse that things take a long time is BS based on the failed promises.  It is also BS based on the historical record.  Historically, the worse the recession, the larger the boom following it as the economy quickly makes up for the losses... except now.

IVbagg
IVbagg

Wellstone,

For the record, GW is not my hero. So when does Obama start taking any responsibility for anything? Please give us your timeline.

MichaelDellman
MichaelDellman

@mike3316 No, just about half. He has personally called the Republican party "the enemy" and yet he's supposed to represent all of us. So much for moving beyond red and blue.

mike3316
mike3316

Soooo then the entire country is Obama's political enemy?

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

@mike3316 It bothers me plenty. I often cite this link:

http://www.badattitudes.com/AshWeb.html

as evidence that the concern over the surveillance state ought to be a fully bipartisan endeavor. Pointing the finger at particular politicians is a waste of time because like it or not, when it comes to brass tack, THE PRESIDENT IS NOT IN CHARGE. If that doesn't scare you nothing will.


mike3316
mike3316

I don't know what W was doing - probably alot of the same as Obama (since he's really "Changed" nothing - in spite of his slogan).  I DO, however, now know that OBAMA (not Bush) has created vast warehouses of servers to house EVERY electronic communication sent by EVERY American citizen. If THAT doesn't both you then YOU are a freaking idiot my friend!!!!