Campaign promises kept for Obama?

President Obama delivers his inaugural address in January 2009. President Obama uses his inaugural address in 2009 to pledged action on the economy, healthcare, education and climate change

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Although we're not even halfway through Barack Obama's second term, it's never too early, it seems, to start speculating on the president's legacy.

New York magazine's Jonathan Chait notes that Mr Obama introduced four key points of reform in his first inaugural address: economic recovery, healthcare, education and climate change. With the recent announcement of the president's new climate plan, he concludes that Mr Obama "has now accomplished major policy responses on all these things".

Regardless of the criticism and celebration around his reform policies, Chait believes that Mr Obama's agenda should not be seen as ineffectual.

In terms of economic recovery, the president's response included an $800bn (£476bn) stimulus, the bailout of the auto industry and the Dodd-Frank financial regulations. Though these policies were challenged by many politicians across the party line, "the failure of any of them might well have triggered a deep, Great Depression-like meltdown", writes Chait.

The president's healthcare reform has been criticised by conservatives and liberals alike, Chait writes, but there is no doubt that his healthcare objectives are moving forward.

As for his education reform attempts, says Chait, although they have been more modest than other points on his agenda, the president's race-to-the-top grants have motivated sweeping standards-based reform across the United States.

Lastly, whether Mr Obama's recent environmental reforms will successfully evolve from rhetoric to action is up for debate, but Chait believes that "there's no doubt that it has fulfilled his original goal".

Not everyone agrees with Chait's analysis. Walter Russell Mead writes in the New York Daily News that the Obama administration is fighting perceptions that it is not in control.

"He now finds himself haunted by goals and expectations he set for himself, caught in a gap between promise and performance that has proved unexpectedly hard to close", Mead writes. He emphasises that the president needs to be wary of underestimating the challenges of "large and complex projects", such as his healthcare overhaul, and that he should increase his focus on the "day-to-day business of governing" in order to truly get things done.

Chait argues that the imperfections and compromises surrounding Mr Obama's reform policies are just part and parcel of the reform process, however - and favourably compares them to past legislative accomplishments.

Nigeria

Nigerian government quiet on latest Boko Haram attacks - With the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls still missing, Boko Haram continues to terrorise villages in the Northeast of Nigeria. Recent reports allege that nearly 200 people have been killed by Boko Haram in the Gwoza region, near the border with Cameroon.

In an interview with BBC News correspondent Will Ross, a witness said that despite death and destruction in the villages, the Nigerian army is nowhere to be found. "We are expecting the soldiers to come", he said, "but up till now they haven't come".

Our correspondent reports the Nigerian military says that "it is doing its best", but is relatively quiet on the latest violence in the Gwoza region.

"When President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the military offensive, he caused shock by revealing that parts of the north-east were no longer on the control of the state," Ross reports. "A year on, and Boko Haram fighters are still holding territory in Nigeria as they continue their brutal campaign of violence."

Egypt

Egyptian ambivalence challenges a new president - Although supporters of Egypt's new president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, have proclaimed him a hero and a saviour in the past, his rule will likely be remembered as banal, writes Steven A Cook for Foreign Affairs.

"He is hemmed in by Egyptians' demands, a collapsing economy, a Muslim Brotherhood that is bent on delegitimising him and opposition to his rule within the state apparatus," says Cook. "Also, it seems that Egyptians are now less likely to be cowed by, or enthralled with, cults of personality."

Despite Mr Sisi's rise to power through his personal popularity and the hope among Egyptians that he could bring unity to the country's political factions, low-voter interest has revealed that "Sisi-mania was a chimera" and that unity "will be more difficult as a result of the elections", Cook writes.

If Sisi is not able to control the country with a strong and popular hand, Cook says, then "his best strategy for remaining in power is to use the only real resources he has - coercion and force - to discipline the political arena".

China

The struggle for the South China Sea - As reports of maritime clashes between China and Vietnam escalate, some experts have begun to proclaim China's aggressive stance on Hanoi a "birth of a new era of Chinese territorial assertiveness", writes Richard Javad Heydarian for the National Interest.

China's hostile approach in the region has piqued the interest of other global powers, although Beijing still describes its actions in the region "as purely bilateral concerns", says Heydarian.

Additionally, Beijing's aggressive policies are motivating smaller regional powers to build alliances and strengthen co-operation, in particular the Philippines and Vietnam, he writes.

In short, he concludes, one of the direct repercussions of Chinese antagonism is the formation of a "flexible, regional network of like-minded countries that are intent on preventing Chinese (intended) domination" of movement and communication in the South China Sea.

Brazil

Dilma Rousseff's Not So Certain Future - A recent Pew Research Centre poll paints an uneasy portrait of the state of Brazil: after a year of protests against corruption, increasing inflation and excessive World Cup spending by the government, the poll concludes that the "national mood in Brazil is grim".

In light of the survey, as well as public statements from economists on the failings of President Dilma Rousseff, the Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer says that the Brazilian leader could be in trouble.

"Things are not going well for Rousseff, who failed to make Brazil's economy more competitive during the good times, when world commodity prices helped her country grow at 5% rates during the past decade," Oppenheimer writes. "This year, Brazil's economy is projected to grow by a meagre 1.8%."

The current protests in Brazil do not necessarily indicate that Ms Rousseff will lose her re-election bid, says Oppenheimer.

"I still think that Rousseff will win", he writes, "but I won't bet on it."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Russian commentators offer their take on President Vladimir Putin and the commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

"If diplomacy is the art of the possible, the Russian president used it to the fullest during the [Normandy landings] celebrations… The leaders of [Russia and Ukraine] agreed that the bloodshed in south-eastern Ukraine must be stopped without delay and the fighting must end. This is an indisputable success for Vladimir Putin... Moscow's consistent and constructive stance on resolving the conflict - calling for considering the interests of all Ukrainians, respecting their rights and liberties - has borne fruit. And this is despite the sanctions that the US, followed by the European Union, decided to use to put pressure on Russia." - Vyacheslav Prokofyev in state-owned Rossiskaya Gazeta.

"When you [the West] try to scare us with sanctions, you use unacceptable wording - saying you have 'isolated' Russia and you want to 'force' Russia to change course. Please drop the imperative tone. You can't talk to us like that, or we'll get angry and direct our own sanctions at the Old and New World. The Old World can be destabilised by supporting separatist movements in Europe: supporting the Basques, so they can form a state of their own in what is now southern France and north-western Spain; supporting Scotland and Wales in their struggle for independence; supporting the nationalists of Corsica and Catalonia." - Eduard Limonov in Izvestiya.

"Professor Higgins took dirty, ignorant Eliza off the streets and experimented on her. The West has done something similar with us over the past quarter of a century. It washed us, dressed us, fed us, taught us to speak English. Dragged us out of Soviet-era shop queues and seduced us with a lifestyle image we picked up from Hollywood films. By drawing us into the consumer society, the West tamed us - that is, it taught us to value our current prosperity rather than striving to turn the world into radioactive dust. But what happens next? After the experiment, Professor Higgins dismissed young Eliza as no longer necessary. The West has done something similar to Russia." - Dmitry Travin in Novaya Gazeta. ‎

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