Obama is doing all he can to shore up his popularity (in the 54% - 58% range in the last 30 days, according to Rasmussen) in order to deliver on things like health care reform and more resources for education. That translates into a “steady as she goes” policy in many areas. The degree of continuity he has opted for with respect to Bush administration policies is more than either conservatives or liberals expected. For example:
(1) On April 29th, Obama let it be known that passage of FOCA was not a legislative priority. Meanwhile, the American public, despite or perhaps because of the extreme views of people like Princeton University professor Peter Singer (who holds that abortion and infanticide are morally permissible in many circumstances), is more pro-life than ever. There are fears in the pro-life camp that FOCA-like legislation will be rolled into health care reform legislation. Still, if that legislation is a cure worse than the disease – a distinct possibility, irrespective of intentions – so much the better if FOCA-like legislation is rolled into it. It will amount to one more nail in the legislation’s coffin.
(2) Military tribunals are set to resume. Obama also decided to block the release of photos of military interrogations, interrogations which featured the ritual humiliation of prisoners. Furthermore, despite attempts by informed liberals to derail the initiative (go here for a sense of the despair that permeates the liberal camp), the military surge in Afghanistan is on track, with the chances for a reconciliation strategy with the Taliban growing dimmer by the day (go here for background). Finally, even if the following recent statement by Obama to the troops in Iraq is not exactly music to the ears of anti-war activists, it is music to the ears of those who think continuity in foreign policy is the most prudent course at the moment: “From getting rid of Saddam, to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections -- you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement” (go here for discussion). Assuming that the Obama administration doesn’t bobble the ball from here on out, historians will no doubt consider that achievement one of the Bush/Obama administrations’ greatest.
(3) The Department of Interior has decided to uphold the Bush administration’s eleventh-hour rule change barring the EPA from regulating the effects of climate change on the polar bear’s environment (go here).
(4) According to Andrew Sullivan, it’s also “steady as she goes” with respect to the rights of gays and lesbians.
Should (1) the Democratic lock on Congress combined with (2) an approval rating thereof at the lowest point in history join hands with (3) a presidential approval rating a mere 5 points lower than it is now, it is unlikely that much of anything that does not enjoy the support of centrist Democrats and Republicans will become law. The likelihood of the political ball bouncing in that direction seems better than 50-50 at the moment.