1. US Economy
He emphasized on the task of rescuing the stricken economy, drawing up a $787bn economic stimulus plan, bailing out banks and offering help to struggling homeowners. The stimulus package should reduce the severity of the recession. But critics say it is too costly, contains too few tax cuts, is too slow to direct money where needed, will not create jobs quickly enough and will pile up future debt.
2. Climate Change
He puts climate change on the Top of his priority list. The stimulus plan includes $23bn for renewable energy and He is backing a draft Democratic-led energy bill designed to slash greenhouse gas emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to regulate CO2 emissions, in a major shift from the Bush era.
3. National Security
Obama has put in place good teams for national security and economic policy – though there are concerns about competing lines of authority in each area. It is also a concern that the Treasury, a key department, has still not had appointments made to key posts immediately below the Secretary. The Daschle affair* was also a significant embarrassment.
Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle is facing tough questions as he seeks
to be confirmed as His secretary of Health and Human Services. Following
revelations that he recently paid off $140,000 in back taxes and interest.
He promised to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp quickly. Within days of taking office, he signed an order demanding closure “as soon as practicable”.
Dozens of detainees have been cleared for release. But the administration faces big legal and diplomatic hurdles as it deals with the remaining 245 men held.
5. Interrogation Method
He stated his opposition to the harsh interrogation methods of the post-9/11 Bush era – such as sleep deprivation and water-boarding – in his inaugural address. He was quick to ban them, and released memos detailing how they were used under the Bush administration. He has absolved CIA interrogators, but officials who approved the techniques may yet be prosecuted.
He promised the withdrawal of most US troops by the end of May 2010. That timetable slipped just a little when he took office – he now says the US “combat mission” will officially end by August 2010, with up to 50,000 of 142,000 troops now there staying until the end of 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests.
He promised to step up the battle against the Taliban, and has sent an extra 17,000 troops to join the 38,000 already there. He has also proposed a big spending programme on infrastructure projects, and pledged 4,000 troops to train Afghan security forces. But his efforts to persuade European Nato allies to shoulder more of the burden have yet to bear much fruit.
He promised to engage with Iran and – possibly – to meet its president. A shift in tone was immediately clear: he talked of extending a hand if Iran “unclenched its fist”, and sent a video message to the people of Iran offering a “new beginning”. The US will now play a full part in international talks with Iran over its nuclear programme. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made clear that if dialogue fails, the US will seek tougher sanctions. No results so far.
9. Middle East
He promised that peace in the Middle East would be a top foreign policy aim “from day one”. Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian leaders have been invited to the White House for peace talks; seasoned negotiator George Mitchell has been appointed envoy to the Middle East; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the region herself. US officials have also made diplomatic overtures to Syria, long out in the cold.
10. Nuclear Disarmament
He has outlined an ambitious vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. He has called for a global summit on nuclear security, and pledged to reduce the US nuclear stockpile. He and his Russian counterpart have agreed to seek a new arms control treaty. He has already stopped funding for a new US nuclear warhead. But he has made clear that the US will keep its arsenal while others have one.