With his programs stalled or stymied on Capitol Hill and his job-approval ratings on the slide, President Obama is using a wide array of political tools at his disposal to push his agenda and re-energize core supporters.
His campaign-style approach indicates that there is a new urgency in the White House as Obama prepares for a fall political season that will help determine whether he builds a strong record in his second term or quickly passes into lame-duck status.
Obama met privately with his Cabinet members and other key advisers at Camp David last Friday in what appeared to be a combination of a motivational session and bonding moment. Obama is also hoping to rally his troops Wednesday when he meets with congressional Democrats on Capitol Hill.
On Tuesday in Chattanooga, Tenn., he is scheduled to deliver the second in a series of speeches calling for Congress to pass his economic and job-creation initiatives. These include tax increases on the rich and big corporations, what he considers moderate cuts in spending, and more aid for education and for improving the nation's infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
But the Republicans, especially the conservative GOP majority in the House, oppose tax hikes and support massive spending cuts. This has resulted in a stalemate as Washington heads toward another budget cliff-hanger this fall, when the government's spending authority runs out and Congress considers whether to raise the debt ceiling.
Obama is again emphasizing the populist themes that carried him to re-election last November. He told the New York Times in an interview published Sunday that he is particularly concerned about income inequality, but complained that many Republicans are obstructionists who want to block him at nearly every turn. "There's almost a knee-jerk habit right now that if I'm for it then they've got to be against it," Obama said.
"...I want to make sure that the American people are paying attention and asking themselves, 'Are we doing everything we can to boost middle-class incomes, ladders of opportunity, and middle-class security.'"
Obama also told the Times that he wants the successor to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to promote policies that help everyday Americans and not just the rich or Wall Street. Bernanke is stepping down early next year when his term expires. Among his possible successors are current Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Obama advisers say.
To further his agenda, Obama is planning to use executive orders and other unilateral actions to bypass Congress if members don't cooperate. The most controversial use of these executive powers is likely to come through the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to control climate change, with the coal industry to receive special scrutiny.
Adding to Obama's problems are his declining job-approval numbers, which tend to erode his influence. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that only 45 percent of Americans approve of the job he's doing.
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.