Syria debate on hold, Obama refocuses on agenda

Obama tells his Cabinet there is still a lot left to do, and polls show the economy, jobs and health care remain top concerns for Americans.
Associated Press
Sep 14, 2013

With a military strike against Syria on hold, President Barack Obama tried Thursday to reignite momentum for his second-term domestic agenda. But his progress could hinge on the strength of his standing on Capitol Hill after what even allies acknowledge were missteps in the latest foreign crisis.

"It is still important to recognize that we have a lot of things left to do here in this government," Obama told his Cabinet, starting a sustained White House push to refocus the nation on matters at home as key benchmarks on the budget and health care rapidly approach.

"The American people are still interested in making sure that our kids are getting the kind of education they deserve, that we are putting people back to work," Obama said.

The White House plans to use next week's five-year anniversary of the 2008 financial collapse to warn Republicans that shutting down the government or failing to raise the debt limit could drag down the still-fragile economy. With Hispanic Heritage Month to begin Monday, Obama is also expected to press for a stalled immigration overhaul and urge minorities to sign up for health care exchanges beginning Oct. 1.

Among the events planned for next week is a White House ceremony highlighting Americans working on immigrant and citizenship issues. Administration officials will also promote overhaul efforts at naturalization ceremonies across the country. On Sept. 21, Obama will speak at the Congressional Black Caucus Gala, where he'll trumpet what the administration says are benefits of the president's health care law for African-Americans and other minorities.

Two major factors are driving Obama's push to get back on track with domestic issues after three weeks of Syria dominating the political debate. Polls show the economy, jobs and health care remain Americans' top concerns. And Obama has a limited window to make progress on those matters in a second term, when lame-duck status can quickly creep up on presidents, particularly if they start losing public support.

Obama already is grappling with some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. A Pew Research Center/USA Today poll out this week put his approval at 44 percent. That's down from 55 percent at the end of 2012.

Potential military intervention in Syria also is deeply unpopular with many Americans, with a Pew survey finding that 63 percent opposing the idea. And the president's publicly shifting positions on how to respond to a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria also have confused many Americans and congressional lawmakers.

"In times of crisis, the more clarity the better," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a strong supporter of U.S. intervention in Syria. "This has been confusing. For those who are inclined to support the president, it's been pretty hard to nail down what the purpose of a military strike is."

For a time, the Obama administration appeared to be barreling toward an imminent strike in retaliation for the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack. But Obama made a sudden reversal and instead decided to seek congressional approval for military action.

Even after administration officials briefed hundreds of lawmakers on classified intelligence, there appeared to be limited backing for a use-of-force resolution on Capitol Hill. Rather than face defeat, Obama asked lawmakers this week to postpone any votes while the U.S. explores the viability of a deal to secure Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.

That pause comes as a relief to Obama and many Democrats eager to return to issues more in line with the public's concerns. The most pressing matters are a Sept. 30 deadline to approve funding to keep the government open — the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 — and the start of sign-ups for health care exchanges, a crucial element of the health care overhaul.

On Wednesday, a revolt by tea party conservatives forced House Republican leaders to delay a vote on a temporary spending bill written to head off a government shutdown. Several dozen staunch conservatives are seeking to couple the spending bill with a provision to derail implementation of the health care law.

The White House also may face a fight with Republicans over raising the nation's debt ceiling this fall. While Obama has insisted he won't negotiate over the debt limit, House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday said the GOP will insist on curbing spending.

"You can't talk about increasing the debt limit unless you're willing to make changes and reforms that begin to solve the spending problem that Washington has," the Ohio Republican said.




Re: "Weakened military?"

IMO, he means weakened in it's effectiveness capabilities.

Other than threaten and/or risk WW3, what are the Campaigner-in-Chief's options?

If you were head of a Middle East country right now, who's protection would you be seeking?


There is no doubt we have the greatest military power on Earth, but it has come with a price. Our soldiers are fighting in the Middle East where we cannot win. They are required to play by the rules while the enemy does not. They return home to find fewer support systems to help them with their injuries, physical, mental and emotional. They have an uphill battle with the job market and witness 1st hand how divided our country has become, the one they risked their lives for. Meanwhile, we spread the military further and further and are beginning to do it with less and less.

Take all of that and then factor in a slew of failed national security and foreign policies, throw in some budget cuts, and the result is a weakened military. We failed in Korea and Vietnam, and have continued on the same path ever since.

I do not believe our failures have been caused by the Left, Right, Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, or Conservatives. There is real evil in the world and we have not figured out how to counter-act it without becoming just like the enemies we denounce.

So while we have the greatest military force on Earth, it is at a disadvantage. Kinda like driving a super car cross country without a steering wheel


I told you that guy sounds ridiculous! See?


You're standard childish post.... you really need some new material


This is like the 10th time Obama is NOW going to focus on Jobs and the Economy...that is until something else comes up that draws his ADD mindset its way. This guy lacks focus big time....but hey its nice to know that he is almost 6 years into his presidency and he is focusing on Jobs......AGIAN!. What a fool.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

If I remember correctly from another story, one of his economic advisers was baffled at why companies would change their hiring practices in the face of ACA. It was only just prior to that comment that the ACA edicts were to kick in at the end of this year. Since it was pushed back a year (which isn't that contentious in itself?) the quote was one of dumbfoundment and came across to me as "but we gave them another year to hire people before they have to adjust to the law".

While the President is the forefront of the topic, frankly between he and Congress, there are a LOT of plates spinning on poles that make for distractions galore from actually making societal and economic progress: ACA, immigration, national debt, various (false?) scandals, and such.

Focus of some kind, somewhere, by someone would be fantastic.

A lot of this, IMO, could be avoided if the states took over a lot of the frenetic minutiae that is bogging down our Federal government. Not necessarily less government, but less centralized government. I can see where many people - even conservatives - would much rather pay a higher tax amount to their state or local governments since it will make more of a difference closer to home.

The Big Dog's back

You are delusional about CONservatives willing to pay more state tax. They don't want to pay any taxes.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I am sure some would balk, but you may be surprised at what purses open when the money is going to a more specific cause. If nothing else I would have liberals behind the idea to support it, yes? Now to set up an experiment to test it...

What if the Federal government only focused on the few things it was meant to do in service to the states and billed them for it? That way the state is the tax collector and the true cost of programs and services becomes more transparent? This may be something! Hmmm...


His agenda??? Watch out my fellow patriots, more assaults on our liberties are coming soon!!!!


Pres. Obama: "The American people are still interested in making sure that our kids are getting the kind of education they deserve, that we are putting people back to work,"

What a jamoke.

Remember his famous "Jobs Summit" and his "Jobs Council," which he let expire and his 'funny' joke about the shovel ready jobs program?


I dont think most American's that actually pay taxes (top 40%) mind paying taxes at all. I know I don't. What I don't like is when the government keeps raising them and telling me I owe more because Washington has a spending problem and cannot tell some folks NO MORE MONEY!


Let's take care of our own country.......for once!