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The Moderometer: Charting Obama’s Zig-Zag, October 13 to December 1

 This is part of an ongoing project to track the ideological shifts of the Obama administration. Click here to read the initial installment. Key search phrase for other installments in this series:"The Moderometer"

December 6, 2009: PUSHES SENATE DEMOCRATS ON HEALTH CARE: In a rare Sunday visit to Capitol Hill, President Obama pressed moderate and progressive Democratic senators to reach a deal on the issues—such as the public option and abortion funding—still dividing them in the health care bill. For the president to be able to sign a bill before the State of the Union in late January, the Senate will most likely have to pass a bill before Christmas. Republicans used the meeting as another excuse to criticize the Senate bill, which Senator John McCain (R-AZ) cautioned would lead to “a takeover of the health care system by the federal government.” (Domestic – Left)

December 1, 2009: LAYS OUT NEW AFGHAN STRATEGY: In a widely anticipated speech at West Point, President Obama sought to explain his decision to send an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. The president’s new strategy depends on three core elements: a troop surge designed to put the Taliban on the defensive; an increased, NATO-led civilian effort; and an increased commitment to the security of Pakistan. Senators of both parties have broadly endorsed the strategy Obama laid out in the speech, though Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has criticized the president’s aim of beginning to withdraw troops in mid-2011.   (Foreign-Center)

November 25, 2009: ANNOUNCES EMISSIONS TARGET FOR COPENHAGEN: President Obama announced that he will travel to Copenhagen in December with a pledge to cut American greenhouse gas emissions to a level 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and to 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. The targets lend a renewed sense of importance to the Copenhagen climate change talks, with Chinese and Indian leaders hinting that they will make commitments if the U.S. does. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has mocked Obama’s pledge, however, saying that the Senate will never ratify such a treaty. (Foreign – Left)  

November 19, 2009: REVISITS TRADE AGREEMENT WITH SOUTH KOREA: Speaking in Seoul, President Obama declared that he will work with Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, to complete a stalled trade deal with his country originally negotiated by George W. Bush’s administration. Congressional Democrats immediately attacked the move, which they argue would hurt American manufacturing. “It’s still Bush trade policy,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), “which is as bankrupt as Bush fiscal policy.” (Foreign – Right)  

November 13, 2009: ANNOUNCES CIVILIAN TRIALS FOR ACCUSED TERRORISTS: As President Obama continues trying to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the administration will try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and four other detainees in civilian courts in New York. Five other detainees are set to be tried by military tribunal. The decision provoked an immediate response from Republicans, who argued that holding such trials in the United States increased the danger of another terrorist attack. Michael Bloomberg, the sometime-Republican mayor of New York City, supported the decision, however. (Domestic/Foreign – Left)  

November 10, 2009: SPEAKS AT FORT HOOD MEMORIAL SERVICE: Five days after Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan gunned down 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, President Obama delivered a poignant eulogy for those slain at the Texas military base. The president’s remarks were simple, moving, and strikingly non-political. (Domestic – Center)  

November 7, 2009: SEES HOUSE PASS HEALTH CARE BILL: After personally persuading several key Democrats to vote for it, President Obama watched the health care bill he had long championed narrowly pass the House of Representatives. The bill passed by a vote of 220-215, with just one Republican, Congressman Anh Cao (R-LA), voting for in favor and 39 Democrats voting against it. (Domestic – Left)  

October 30, 2009: ENDS BAN ON U.S. ENTRY FOR THOSE WITH H.I.V.: Fulfilling a pledge made to gay supporters, President Obama announced that he is cancelling a ban on entry into the United States for people living with H.I.V./AIDS. The ban, originally enacted in 1987, was weakened by George W. Bush last year but not fully repealed. (Domestic – Center)


October 19, 2009: ANNOUNCES NEW SUDAN STRATEGY: After months of deliberation among administration officials, President Obama announced his new strategy for dealing with what he termed a “genocide” in the Darfur region of Sudan. The new approach, which combines increased incentives for the Sudanese to cooperate with the threat of severe sanctions, is more moderate than the plan to isolate the country that Obama announced during the campaign. (Foreign – Center)  

October 19, 2009: DEFERS TO STATES ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The Justice Department issued a memo declaring that the Obama administration will not make it a priority to prosecute law-abiding medical marijuana users and distributors. The memo, issued to federal prosecutors in the 14 states that allow medical marijuana, largely echoed Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s statements on the issue seven months ago, when he announced the department would end the Bush administration’s practice of raiding medical marijuana dispensaries. (Domestic – Left)


October 17, 2009: ATTACKS INSURANCE INDUSTRY’S ‘DISHONEST ADS’: In his weekly radio broadcast, President Obama lashed out at the insurance industry for running “deceptive and dishonest ads” while suggesting that Congress may scrap the industry’s long-standing exemption from anti-trust laws. Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have come out in favor of ending the anti-trust exemption in recent weeks. (Domestic – Left) 


October 13, 2009: SEES RUSSIAN SUPPORT ERODE ON IRAN: In a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, hinted that his government would not be willing to back sanctions against Iran. “Threats, sanctions and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive,” he said. Lavrov’s statement dampened President Obama’s diplomatic efforts to outmaneuver Iran, especially after some Republicans criticized the president of capitulating to Russia by cancelling George W. Bush’s proposed missile defense system in Eastern Europe. (Foreign – Left)