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.