Obama seems to find second wind

By Jirtme Cartillier ,AFP

WASHINGTON — The hammering suffered by U.S. President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party in last month’s mid-term elections could have floored him out as he began his final two years as president. Instead, he has bounced back off the ropes and come out fighting. One month after losing control of the Senate and with it his last chance of setting the legislative agenda, Obama appears reinvigorated, determined to wield whatever power remains his. Allies that despaired of his apparent lack of ambition are applauding. And any satisfaction the Republican camp felt at their mid-term victory has quickly given way to fury at the White House decision to wield its executive authority in the service of Obama’s agenda. The already deep divide between Washington’s warring camps has deepened, ahead of battles over immigration and the budget, while rivals jostle for position ahead of the 2016 presidential race.

Around a dozen potential contenders are champing at the bit, and they will be running against the image of the departing president as much as against their direct rivals for his place. Obama signaled his new-found free spirit during his Asian tour last month, when he announced a deal with China for the world’s two biggest economies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. While a U.S. president has great leeway in foreign affairs, domestic energy policy is a topic for Congress and many Obama opponents are in any case skeptical about the risk posed by climate change.

Obama returned home to a barrage of criticism but was unrepentant. He insisted the United States can meet his emissions targets through tougher action by the executive’s Environmental Protection Agency, rather than through congressional legislation. Then he followed up his diplomatic coup with a domestic bombshell: executive action to shield up to five million undocumented migrants from arrest and deportation, again without consulting Congress. Within 10 days he had made progress on two of his key 2008 campaign themes, exactly at the moment when his conservative rivals might have thought that they had finally stymied his agenda.