US: ‘Renegade’ returns to face fiscal cliff and gun lobby (2012 in Retrospect)

Washington, Dec 23: Despite a still sputtering economy, President Barack Obama created history again in America’s most expensive and contentious White House race only to face another looming financial crisis and a massacre of the innocents that left the nation traumatised.

In the end ‘Renegade’, as Obama is code-named by the Secret Service, became one of those rare presidents to win a second term in the midst of a downturn, but an impending financial cliff and a gathering storm over the yearend shooting of 20 elementary school children in Connecticut left him little time to celebrate.

The fourth mass shooting, including one at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin that left six worshippers dead, during four years of his presidency made Obama vow to use “whatever power this office holds” to prevent more tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook elementary.

But America’s powerful gun lobby to which many a lawmaker is beholden posed a defiant challenge to the president’s push for stricter gun-control laws with the National Rifle Association demanding armed police in every school as “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Obama’s victory over Republican rival Mitt Romney, who gave him a tough fight till the very end, made him Time magazine’s choice for the Person of the Year for the second time in four years calling him “both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America.”

The first African-American president’s cool leadership as superstorm Sandy struck the US eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and left New Jersey and New York devastated in the week before the November election, too helped.

Millions of people in 24 states were left without power for days on end as the storm surge flooded New York City’s streets, tunnels and subway lines to leave America’s largest city and its financial capital crippled.

Sandy killed at least 125 people in the US and was blamed for about $62 billion in damage, making it the second-costliest storm in US history after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, which caused $128 billion in damage.

Victory in the elections brought Obama straight from the campaign trail to the negotiating table with a victorious president offering losing Republicans tough choices on the so called looming “fiscal cliff” in the New Year.

But with lawmakers going off on Christmas holiday without an agreement on the double whammy of some $536 billion in automatic tax increases and about $110 billion in spending cuts that may send the slowly recovering economy reeling again, Obama clipped his ambitions.

Asking the Congress to adopt a stopgap measure to keep benefits flowing to unemployed workers and prevent taxes rising on annual incomes under $250,000, he too left for a family vacation to Hawaii – to fight his battles another day.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

IANS