There's no denying that President Obama sports a lot more gray hair in his second term than when, at age 47 in 2009, he was the fifth-youngest man ever to assume the Oval Office. Despite that gray hair, though, he told voters when he was running for reelection that they would see renewed energy. "I may be gray but I'm not tired," he said. "My passion is still there. My vision for this country is still there."
And an expansive vision, it is. In his Inaugural Address, Obama set lofty goals, declaring, "We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher." And he disclosed that he keeps in his desk a checklist of campaign promises, 60 percent of which he said he has already kept. In the time left to him, he said, "I'm pretty confident we can get the other 40 percent done."
But to get there, he is going to have to overcome the continuing and unrelenting opposition of the Republicans who control the House and have sufficient numbers to stymie his agenda in the Senate. To that end, he has spent much of the beginning of his second term hunting for a way to soften the opposition and build alliances bill by bill. He has invited Republican lawmakers to golf and to dinners, all but imploring them to work with him. But the results have been slow to come.
All the invitations have sparked talk that Obama brings more than just gray hair to his second term. Valerie Jarrett, one of his closest aides in the White House, insists he also brings a lot more knowledge about how government works. "His core values, his principles, and his vision for America are the same in the second term as they were in the first term," she told National Journal. But she added, "Over the last four years in his job — just as anyone would four years in — he has grown. I think his confidence has grown. He has a good sense of what you have to do to get big things done in Washington. So his strategies have evolved. But it isn't as though after an election he's a different person. He is the same."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.