Obama's sixth year: Leader or lame duck?



14 May 2014

The enduring idea that the US president is all-powerful is directly at odds with the facts. The reality is that the nature of the US system of government makes it very difficult for any president to pass domestic reforms. Furthermore, it is not just the constitution and divided government that restrict what presidents can change. They are also beholden to larger economic and international forces. Because of these forces and Obama’s own instincts it is plausible to argue that Obama's foreign policy has been more traditional and risk-adverse than the more radical decisions taken by the George W. Bush presidency.

Our expert panel of US Studies Centre academics discussed the Affordable Health-Care Act and Obama’s attempts to address the issue of inequality in the US. Obama has of course faced opposition on these issues and others. The nature of this opposition - from the Republican Party, the Tea Party and others – was examined. Obama’s relations with the media, his struggle to move from campaigning to governing and then back again and his fading public popularity was also debated.  


  • Dr Thomas Adams
    Dr Thomas Adams
    Senior Lecturer in History and American Studies, University of Sydney

    Dr Thomas Jessen Adams was previously a lecturer at the United States Studies Centre. He continues to be a Lecturer in American Studies and History at the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry at the University of Sydney. His research and writing focuses on political economy, labour, social movements, urban history, and race, gender, and American politics.

  • John Barron
    John Barron
    Journalist and broadcaster, ABC

    John Barron was previously an Honorary Associate at the US Studies Centre. He is anchor of “Planet America” on ABC-TV and author of the book “Vote For Me” about the 2008 Presidential campaign.

  • Professor Brendon O'Connor
    Professor Brendon O'Connor
    Professor of US Politics and US Foreign Relations, United States Studies Centre (jointly appointed with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney)

    Brendon O'Connor is a Professor of US Politics and US Foreign Relations. He is jointly appointed between the United States Studies Centre and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (in the Discipline of Government and International Relations) at the University of Sydney. He is the editor of seven books on anti-Americanism and has also published articles and books on American welfare policy, presidential politics, US foreign policy, and Australian-American relations.