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Americas

A look back at Obama in 2010

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-10-27

Though his name is not on the ballot, next week's midterm elections are widely seen as a referendum on President Barack Obama. France24.com takes a look back at some highlights from his second year thus far.

Healthcare overhaul

After a year of partisan wrangling, backroom negotiations, and roudy rallies, Obama signed a sweeping overhaul of the US healthcare system on March 23, paving the way for 30 million uninsured Americans to access coverage. But while the president has been credited with a legislative feat that eluded many before him, recent polls show more Americans opposing the reform than supporting it. Meanwhile, Republicans have sworn that if they gain control of Congress, they will try to repeal major provisions of the bill.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis

The Obama administration’s reluctance to communicate worst-case scenarios for the damage caused by the oil flowing from the leaking well in April was blamed for delaying the response to the disaster. Accused of failing to display sure leadership in a moment of national crisis, the president eventually earned some praise in June for securing a promise from BP chiefs to create a 20-billion-dollar compensation fund for victims of the spill.

Financial regulatory reform

On July 21, Obama signed into law a bill that significantly expanded the government’s regulation of the markets in an era of intensified mistrust following the financial crisis. The legislation decisively boosted federal policing of Wall Street after decades of de-regulation. But left-wing critics have argued that it doesn’t go far enough and that too many details are subject to the regulators’ discretion.

Another woman on the Supreme Court

Elena Kagan was sworn in on August 7, becoming only the fourth woman to serve on the US Supreme Court -- and the second woman to be appointed by Obama. A renowned lawyer and former dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan is expected to be a moderate, or centre-left, voice on the court. She will be particularly scrutinized for her stances on hot-button issues like same-sex marriage and immigration, if relevant legislation comes before the court.

Withdrawing from Iraq

Ending the war in Iraq was one of Obama’s most frequent promises on the campaign trail, and the president took a step toward that goal by pulling out the last US combat troops on August 31. Though a durable Iraqi government has yet to be put in place, Obama marked the occasion with an Oval Office address in which he said that the US was ready to focus on more urgent matters at home. 50,000 “transitional” US troops remain in Iraq and, according to Obama’s timetable, will be pulled out by the end of 2011.

Navigating a national controversy

After weeks of appearing to sidestep the debate raging over the proposed Islamic cultural centre and mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, Obama delivered a full-throated defence of the plan. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable”, Obama said in a speech at a White House Ramadan celebration. Obama was accused of backtracking when he appeared to refine his position in an interview days later, noting that he would “not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there”.

Steps forward and back on foreign policy

On April 8, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev marked what they called a new chapter in the tension-ridden relationship between the US and Russia by signing the New Start treaty, which would significantly reduce their nuclear arsenals. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Obama was able to set up direct peace talks in early September between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But any progress on that front seemed to stall when Israel refused to extend a moratorium on settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Help for small businesses

On September 28, Obama signed a 30-billion-dollar small business bill that established a lending fund for small businesses and added 12 billion dollars in tax breaks for small businesses. Democrats hailed the bill as a job stimulator.

Date created : 2010-10-27

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