POLITICS: White House

Broken promises from first term help Obama set agenda for second

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

Turning his attention to his second term, President Obama is likely to craft his new agenda from the ashes of the one he tried to push through in his first four years.

Throughout his re-election campaign, the president reiterated many of the same promises from his 2008 bid for the White House, on immigration, the budget deficit and more -- promises he didn't keep during his first four years.

His supporters say they are now counting on him to keep those broken promises, which include:

The deficit

Obama vowed to cut the federal debt in half by the end of his first term. Instead, he presides over a $16.3 trillion deficit and added more to the debt in four years than his predecessor added in eight years.

"That is an unsustainable situation," Alice Rivlin, budget director under former President Clinton, told The Washington Examiner. "The serious problem is not the current debt; it is the projected growth of future debt."

Yet, Obama's message in current deficit reduction talks with congressional Republicans is anchored in his call for higher taxes on the rich rather than cuts in spending.

Immigration reform

Obama conceded that his failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform was the "biggest failure" of his first term. He vowed again to take up the issue with a new Congress next year, though some activists are cautious about his chances.

"I'm not getting my hopes up until we get this thing done," said one immigrant rights activist who meets regularly with White House officials. "We heard all the right things last time too. But I think the political atmosphere is completely different now -- and the president knows how important this is to the millions of Latinos who overwhelmingly backed him."

Republicans may be more willing to make a deal on immigration next year because many in the party worry that they're losing Latino voters. Obama won about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote this year, and Republicans responded by introducing their own immigration reform legislation immediately after the election.

Closing Guantanamo Bay

Obama in 2008 claimed closing the detention facility for suspected terrorists in Cuba would be a top priority as president. He issued an executive order but failed to close it, frustrating his supporters.

The president insists closing Gitmo remains a goal, but he has largely extended the Bush administration's policies of holding "enemy combatants" indefinitely and last year signed legislation that would effectively keep the facility open for the foreseeable future.

"It was not knowing the finer details, underestimating the opposition and not moving fast enough," Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, said of Obama's failure to close the prison. "I sense more of a willingness from him to confront the issue, but who knows? Maybe I'm dreaming. I hope not."

• Fixing the economy

Unemployment has finally started to decline, but Obama's economic advisers had promised to have it down to about 6 percent by now. The latest, most positive jobs report showed the rate at 7.7 percent. The president is proposing additional stimulus spending to jump-start the economy next year, but congressional Republicans oppose it, saying the $800 billion he spent in his first term did little to help.

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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