Inside Story Americas

Obama's second chance at change

Ahead of US President Barack Obama's inauguration, we look at what to expect from his second term in office.
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2013 10:49

In January 2009, hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of a chilly Washington to witness Barack Obama's inauguration as president of the United States.

"The president is a wiser and a more experienced president than he was in the first term ... He has the consent of the governed [and that] really matters ... He feels that; you can see it in his voice and his actions and the boldness of the gun plan this week, and I think you are going to see a better, stronger and bolder second term."

-  Simon Rosenberg, New Democrat Network

Now, four years on, he is about to begin a second term in office following a comfortable defeat of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

But the sense of optimism that marked the start of Obama's first term has long since dissipated, as he attempted to manage a divided congress and the economic and foreign policy challenges faced by the United States.

Nonetheless, many progressives are hoping the president will be liberated by not being able to run for another term. Many were encouraged by his challenge to the powerful gun lobbies this week, saying perhaps it was a sign that - at last - Obama will actually take on Washington's vested interests.

The president has also made encouraging noises on immigration reform and climate change. Then there is foreign policy, where presidential power is less hamstrung by Congress.

France's intervention in Mali, the continuing diplomatic standoff with Iran, and the future of the US's covert global wars are just a few issues that will be closely watched in his second term.

To discuss the challenges facing the president on the domestic front, Inside Story Americas with presenter Shihab Rattansi is joined by guests: John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation; and Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of the New Democrat Network.

And to discuss the president's foreign policy agenda is Mark Perry author of many books including Talking to Terrorists; and Steve Clemons, editor at large for The Atlantic

"I think if it were measured by presidential posture his appointments of people like John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, moving John Brennan over to CIA, making Dennis his chief of staff: this is a president who stopped pursuing necessarily people he was uncomfortable with and he is bringing in people he feels very comfortable with - that’s the measure and it is probably a sign he wants to do things and not spend so much time weighing out every option. I'm surprised by this but I think the president wants to move the needle on some issues."

Steve Clemons, editor at large for The Atlantic 


  • Obama has expanded the use of drones in Pakistan and Yemen
  • All military-age males are counted as combatants in US drone strikes
  • The Obama administration has taken a hard line on whistleblowers
  • Obama implemented the US troop 'surge' in Afghanistan
  • Obama fulfilled his campaign pledge to pull US troops from Iraq
  • Obama defeated Republican candidate Mitt Romney in November 2012
  • This week the president unveiled new gun-control proposals
  • Obama faces strong opposition to his gun proposals from the right
  • The president will have to deal with a Republican controlled house
  • Obama faces an impending battle over extending the debt ceiling
  • The president will have to decide on the Keystone XL pipeline
  • There is pressure for Obama to reform the immigration system
  • Obama has nominated Jack Lew as his new treasury secretary


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