The president and Congress face an immediate set of confrontations, including the need to raise the federal debt ceiling --
The president is right to stick to his assurances that he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling or accept a solution to the nation's fiscal problems that fails to balance cuts with new revenue. But he must also not abandon his earlier instincts to seek a grand bargain on the budget. He has failed in that effort before, but the deal Mr. Obama and Congress struck to avoid most of the tax increases that were due on Jan. 1 shows that it is possible to assemble a coalition that puts the national interest ahead of partisanship — it just takes extraordinary pressure from the public to make it happen. To that end, he has moved to convert his campaign apparatus to a nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing support for his agenda.
His first opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of that strategy is with gun control. The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has forced the issue to the top of the agenda, and the president laid out an ambitious set of policy goals this week, including a new ban on assault weapons and the expansion of the mandatory background check system to gun shows and private sales. A solid majority of the American public is behind him. Still, the assault weapons ban will be difficult to enact. Closing the gun show loophole, however, may be more important — and more possible.
Immigration is another good chance for the president to enact legislation with bipartisan support. The president has indicated that he is interested in a comprehensive package of reforms that includes a path to citizenship — though not amnesty — for illegal immigrants who have not broken other laws. Many
One of the great disappointments of Mr. Obama's first term was how little he did to address the issue of climate change, but the violent storms and record high temperatures of recent years leave no doubt about the importance of the issue. Without American leadership, the world will not act.
Given the entrenched denial of an overwhelming scientific consensus on man-made global warming in much of the Republican Party, this issue may be among the most challenging for Mr. Obama to face. But nothing fosters success like success. If Mr. Obama can use the early days of his term to develop a governing paradigm that relies on Democrats and what moderate Republicans remain in Washington, he stands a chance of leaving office with a record of real accomplishment.