SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

May 17, 2013

Benton: Uncomfortable weeks for Obama

President Obama and members of his inner circle must be counting down the hours until Memorial Day when Americans start thinking more about their summer vacations and less about what’s happening in Washington.

In the space of two weeks the administration has aroused the ire of the press corps, conservatives, Congress and the foreign service with its handling of events ranging as far afield as Benghazi, Libya to the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio. Whether these actions derived from simple arrogance or gross incompetence, they have given the Republican right a new lease on life and sucked the air out of promising Obama-sponsored initiatives, including immigration reform and gun control.

Given Democratic gains last year, Obama was no doubt hoping for similar results in 2016 and finishing out the last two years of his two terms in office with a flurry of progressive legislation. The chances of that happening has been seriously diminished by recent events.

Obama has traditionally chosen more hospitable climes like Hawaii or Martha’s Vineyard for his own summer vacation. But this year he is likely to find the 110-degree-plus heat of a Phoenix summer more comfortable than the kind he’s been experiencing in the nation’s capital.

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Having decided this will be his last term, Gov. Deval Patrick may find it easier than most to talk about new taxes. He won’t get anything close to what he wants; but as two of the North Shore’s most respected mayors, Kim Driscoll of Salem and Bill Scanlon of Beverly, made clear this week, money must be found to fix the state’s deteriorating roads and public transportation system.

Fixing bridges, improving our roadways and expanding public transportation can’t be done for nothing, after all. And adding a few more cents to the cigarette tax — a favorite target of legislators — won’t do it.

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