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President Barack Obama has now begun the second term afforded him by the American people in a clear and decisive election on Nov. 6, 2012.
But history is filled with examples of bad luck and misfortune in that last four years of eight for many presidents.
Certainly, George W. Bush’s second term was a textbook disaster. The war in Iraq didn’t turn up any “WMDs,” and popular support for it went south. He spent most of the last three years with an approval rating of 20-something percent.
While a failure of that magnitude is not likely for Obama, things can still go wrong.
But the cornerstones of the president’s agenda are clear. He is finishing the business of ending the war in Afghanistan just as he did in Iraq. He recently announced that all military operations would soon be turned over to Afghans, and that American troops would start coming home earlier than expected.
His selection of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary proves that he values the experience of those who have actually fought in a war. History has shown that they almost always have a greater reluctance to go to war than those who haven’t fought.
Hagel, who will be the first Vietnam combat veteran to serve in that capacity, is still hated by the McCain/Graham wing of the GOP for criticizing Bush’s idiotic war in Iraq.
Most Republicans in the Senate have foreign policy views that can be summed up in three letters: w-a-r. But Hagel will likely be confirmed. Hopefully, he and the president can lead the way toward a reduced Pentagon budget, a necessity that has been obvious for several years now.
With Secretary of State John Kerry, another who understands the tragedy of unnecessary wars, we will continue to establish a foreign policy that casts us not as warmongers but as a nation that promotes peace and justice in every corner of the world.
I hope the president will also put an end to a Cold War relic that has lasted far too long: the trade embargo against Cuba. It is time to establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba and help that country in its upcoming political and economic changes. To do that properly, we should be friends and not enemies.
Domestically, the president will pursue an agenda that commits to common sense gun laws, immigration reform, universal health care, protection of hard-earned gay rights, and most importantly, the preservation of the social safety net represented by Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
In 2008 and 2012, this was the program chosen by great majorities of voters. What it represents is nothing less than a triumph of the liberal agenda over the forces of backward conservatism.
All the demonization of the person of Barack Obama – the Muslim, socialist, Kenyan, communist, dictator, one who “hates America,” nonsense – was not able to stop this tide of history and progress.
Quite frankly, the future belongs to the left, because that’s what the people have chosen. Conservatism may not be finished, but it’s clear that it no longer captures the imagination of an increasingly diverse American population.
Its host, the Republican Party, is a small, narrow tent of aging white males. The rest of the country is Hispanic, Asian, young, white, black, female, male, gay, straight, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist and agnostic, aging liberal baby boomers (me!), and millenials born between 1982 and 2002.
Guess which group re-elected Barack Obama?
Progress goes forward; conservatism looks backward. Thus, we have the second term of Barack Obama. God bless him and the new USA over the next four years.
Like so many millions of others, I’m just glad to be a part of it.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com