Liberated from elections, Obama makes a change we might yet believe in

In Newtown, the President sounded like a leader reborn – but can he deliver?

Related Topics

Buckle up because Barack Hussein Obama has just stumbled upon his old self, the man America fell in love with in the 2008 election race – the one who invoked Martin Luther King Jr, telling voters he would be driven as President by "the fierce urgency of now". Remember that phrase that offered such promise and passion?

We celebrated when he decreed the closing of Guantanamo Bay and promised to end the bi-partisan gridlock of Washington. We looked forward to his passing immigration reform and getting serious about climate change. Then Congress bogged him down and he grew timid.

Flickers of the old Obama who once thrilled us returned this year when he confessed his conversion on gay marriage and removed the threat of deportation from millions of young undocumented immigrants. Then he clobbered Mitt Romney and with re-election, got a second chance. He can't run again, of course, so are the fetters now off?

The trouble is that while they botched winning the White House and taking control of the Senate, the Republicans easily held on to the House of Representatives. Mr Obama does not have a free hand on passing new laws. Yet he won in November by a decent margin and surely he is stronger now than six weeks ago. You see it in his rising approval ratings – up to 55 per cent now – and in the defensive Republican posture in the negotiations to avoid new tax hikes and spending cuts.

Of course the quicksand could return quickly, particularly if the progress we think we see now on averting that dreaded 'fiscal cliff' falls apart. But if you watched Mr Obama give his speech to the inter-faith service in Newtown, Connecticut, on Sunday night lamenting last Friday's school massacre, you may have sensed what I did. It elicited sobs in that high school auditorium. My guess is that it drew tears in front rooms all across the land.

Whence has come that new power in the loins of the leader? Clearly, it had partly to do with the issue at hand – the slaying of 20 young children. Friday, he had said earlier, had been the hardest day of his presidency. Now that it is about children, the fight for gun control is not just a priority, it is an imperative.

The President is stronger too because the mood among Republicans has changed. After Mr Obama won the first time, the top Republican senator, Mitch McConnell, said denying him a second term should inform everything his party did. There's no need for such belligerence now. Republicans' hopes of winning back the White House in 2016 need not be dashed; Clinton Part II went well yet Al Gore lost in 2000.

So here's to the new, old Obama. It may be hoping for too much, but the next four years in US politics could be as exhilarating as that 2008 campaign.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform