What defines Barack Obama

And what about his most memorable moment.

Questions:

1. What do you consider to be the biggest political strength and weakness of Barack Obama?

2. If you look at his career, both in business and politics, what was maybe the most memorable moment?

3. Either Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney will lose this election. In case it’s Obama, what do you think will be his future? Do you think he’ll want to stay active in politics or do you think he’ll leave politics for good?

Answers:

Melinda Mueller, Professor, Political Science, Eastern Illinois University

1. I think President Obama’s strengths include intelligence, excellent communication skills, and a broad understanding of policy problems, both in the U.S. and internationally. I believe he understands the challenges of ideological polarization that the U.S. is dealing with right now, and seeks to bridge that polarization–for instance, by appointing Republicans to his Cabinet. However, I think that the highly polarized Congress is a significant obstacle, and weakness, for President Obama. Republicans are unwilling to compromise, since any progress would be seen as “success” for the President, and Democrats are similarly unwilling to compromise. He can act without Congress’s approval, through executive orders, but then he will be accused of the same unilateral actions for which he criticized his predecessor, President G. W. Bush.

2. His inauguration alone was truly memorable, given its historic importance for the U.S. In terms of policy, his health care reform will probably have a lasting impact on the U.S. Even if Romney wins the election, I doubt that all of the health care policy will be dismantled. Republicans may repeal some parts of the law, but some new benefits (keeping children on parents’ health care longer and rules on preexisting conditions) are very popular, and will likely remain.

3. I think he would remain active in public life, though I’m not sure how. Certainly many citizens in the state of Illinois might like him to run for governor, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a former president serve as governor before! I expect that he might become active in charitable work or a think-tank, and use his community organizing skills to work on policy solutions outside of elective office.

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