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For Obama, Running Country May Be Even Harder than Winning Race
    2008-11-06 15:26:30     Xinhua
by Yang Qingchuan

For Barack Obama, it took a strong mind and a strong heart to win the two-year-long U.S. presidential race, but it may be even harder for the first African-American president to run the country, given the daunting challenges of "two wars" and "the worst financial crisis in a century" in Obama's own words.

QUICK TRANSITION

The first step for him will be filling the key posts of his administration and making sure everything is going right during the 76-day transitional period between now and inauguration day on Jan. 20, 2009.

He definitely needs Congress to approve the nominations to the key posts in a fast fashion and needs to reach out to Republicans and independents for help.

As the world's leading economic power and the disaster area of the financial storm, whoever becomes the next U.S. treasury secretary will get world's attention. To find a person who is widely considered capable and wise will shore up confidence and have a positive effect on the global markets.

The two wars and other thorny foreign policy issues will also need credible people to be his secretary of defense and secretary of state.

Obama must also quickly prepare his own White House to streamline the decision-making process.

Latest reports said Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel,a former aide to Bill Clinton, has been tapped to be Obama's chief of staff at the White House.

Obama has indicated that his administration will include Republicans.

For a smooth transition, President George W. Bush appeared to share the same goal with his successor. He formed a transitional team last month and pledged to help Obama.

The defeated Republican presidential nominee John McCain also urged his supporters to help Obama deal with all the challenges.

WAR AND RECESSION

No matter how high Obama's goal is and how many promises he has made on the campaign trail, he will face the reality that a president's agenda is often formed by things surrounding him out of his own control.

The fact that he will be the first U.S. president to take office when the nation is in wars and in recession at the same time in over 70 years determines that he has no choice but to focus on the two pressing issues since the first day in Oval Office.

In a recent interview with the TIME magazine, Obama listed his five priority issues, namely, energy, taxes, health care, education and immigration.

But above all these is the foremost task of stabilizing the banks.

Economists predicted the economic turmoil to last for one or two years. They also said Obama's economic proposals made during the campaign are basically second-rate issues attached to the Bush administration's bailout plan.

Moreover, the powerful lobbyists and party elders will compete to influence his domestic policies and it is very hard for Obama to stick to his original plan under such circumstances.

Obama's stimulus proposal means more budget deficits and he did not explain how he could balance the budget.

He is an opponent to the Iraq war from the start, but he is forced to compromise on his positions on anti-terrorism issues due to the strong resistance to his withdrawal plan from leading generals in the armed forces.

Obama clearly favors a shift to Afghanistan from Iraq but the move needs more money.

Analysts said U.S. foreign policy priorities are unlikely to change much under his administration because U.S. presidents are actually controlled by the things, not the reverse, as Abraham Lincoln said.

Meanwhile, Iran, the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and Cuba, will also be his challenges.

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Politically speaking, Obama will be a strong Democratic president hardly seen in recent decades.

First, he has the mandate of U.S. voters.

Obama won highest proportion of popular vote since Republican George H.W. Bush defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988, according to figures released Wednesday.

The 52 percent of the popular vote that Obama won -- 63.4 million ballots -- is the highest for any Democratic candidate since 1964.

Bill Clinton, another Democrat, was twice elected president without getting half of the popular vote.

His presidency itself has become a historic symbol to bridge the racial divide and is seen as a living proof of the American Dream.

Besides, in Tuesday's election, Democrats not only won the White House but also expanded their advantage in the Congress. So Obama is likely to have a more cooperative Congress than Bush has.

In addition, Obama is very popular around the world and it could be an opportunity to restore American's credibility which was dented by the unpopular wars and Guantanamo.

Many U.S. scholars believe Obama is the best U.S. brand for the moment.

However, if Obama is not an exception among presidents, he may find his popularity dwindle after one year in office.

That phenomenon happened to every popular president-elect since World War II, according to research results of historian Julian Zelizer.

The reasons are simple. Unexpected crises at home or abroad force the presidents to focus on them, even they are not in their best interests.

The bitter partisan and intra-party tensions remain gridlocks for every president. Budgetary limits will also constrain the range of the president's economic plans.

Next year will certainly be rough for Obama and he can't count on everything going in his favor.

If Obama wants another term, he should seize the opportunities and work harder.
 
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