Mr Obama goes to Washington

Sunday 1 November, 1.45pm until 3.15pm, Henry Moore Gallery

The election of Barack Obama in November 2008 represented to many Americans the promise of real political change. Amid war and economic recession, Obama’s historic inauguration in January drew millions to line the mall in Washington DC and stirred hope in the hearts of a nation.

In the current political climate, such high expectations of a politician are rare. The jury is still out on whether Obama can deliver on the changes he promised. His economic stimulus package has been far from uncontentious and has hardly resolved America’s deep economic problems. Although his foreign policy has struck some conciliatory notes, with overtures towards Iran and the pressing of the ‘reset button’ with Russia, Afghanistan has now become Obama’s war. Back home, Obama’s post-racial stance has been questioned following his choice of Supreme Court candidate and his intervention in the “Gates-gate” fiasco. The president’s flagship policy of healthcare reform has not only met opposition from Republicans, but has also raised questions from Democrats wary of increasing the US budget deficit. Despite claiming on the campaign trail that ‘change comes to Washington’, after six months in office, Congress still has highly unfavourable ratings, even if Obama himself maintains the confidence of a majority of Americans.

One year after his election, has President Obama lived up to the hype? Does his administration really represent a new broom to sweep the cobwebs away – or now that the dust has settled – is there a return to politics as usual at the White House? In new circumstances, what would ‘politics as usual’ even mean? Has Obama set his sights too high… or not been ambitious enough? 

James Crabtree
comment editor, Financial Times

Bronwen Maddox
chief foreign commentator, The Times; author In Defence of America

Professor Iwan Morgan
head of US Presidency Centre, Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London; author, The Age of Deficits

Helen Searls
senior executive producer, Feature Story News

Dr Cheryl Hudson
lecturer in American history, University of Liverpool

Produced by
Dr Cheryl Hudson lecturer in American history, University of Liverpool
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