What to Expect in Obama's Sophomore Year

Security, economy among president's biggest challenges

Most Americans use the New Year as a time to pledge that they'll drop those extra pounds or finally quit smoking -- but President Obama has more to prove as 2010 begins.

As the commander in chief starts his second year in the White House, he's facing a bevy of big-time concerns, from the economy to terrorism. But pundits and pols alike say Obama's biggest problem is that he spent 2009 calling out powerful nations like China, Iran and Russia with loud rhetoric, but not much action.

Now that it's 2010, pundits warn, the president may find he has to back up his talk with action.

  • David Ignatius at the Washington Post writes that Obama's 2010 will be a juggling act, as he'll simultaneously have to curb Iran's nuclear program, work on building and facilitating democracy in Iraq, and deal with his newest rival, the Yemeni terrorism front. 2010 will be "another year of ebbs and flows in the Middle East," Ignatius writes, a year filled with "puzzles" Obama will have to solve.
  • Obama's 2009 big-talking swagger will soon come back to bite him, Victor Davis Hanson writes for RealClearPolitics.com. The congenial commander in chief is trying to run with the big dogs in his attempts to reach out to leaders like Russia's Vladimir Putin, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hanson writes, playing the "whiny nerd" to the rest of the world's "pushy class bully" who'll soon throw Obama to the wolves.
  • Paul Krugman at the New York Times says that it's China who'll pose the biggest threat to Obama in the next year, writing that Chinese mercantilism could take some 1 million jobs from U.S. soil. "I predict that 2010 will be the year of China. And not in a good way," Krugman writes.
  • Anne Applebaum seconds Krugman's Chinese sentiment at Slate, writing that the Asian nation is on track to again ascend to economic power, and that it could be the only authoritarian regime to survive a shifting world political order. Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in American consciousness is "dwindling to the status of major nuisance," Applebaum writes, as China reasserts itself as a serious international force who the U.S. should seek as a strong ally.
  • Beyond China, Obama's must look in every direction to find allies, the editorial team at Newsweek writes in a slideshow of its top 10 predictions of 2010. Among the predictions are Fidel Castro's death and the growth of Cuba, an economic boom in Brazil that could make it "the new China," and coups in Venezuela and Pakistan. But Newsweek's number one prediction could answer Obama's biggest prayers: that the "Hail Mary" troop surge that "worked in Iraq... will in Afghanistan, too."
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