NPR : News

Filed Under:

Is This The Beginning Of Obama Unbound?

Are we seeing the beginning of a trend from the occupant of the Oval Office — a President Obama unbound?

That's the question after Obama cast aside his usual caution while speaking at a town hall-style meeting in Binghamton, N.Y., on Friday. Asked about his proposals for attacking soaring higher education costs, Obama said:

"This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck. I'm in my second term, so I can say it. [Audience laughter.] You know, I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years because by the third year — in the first two years, young people are learning in the classroom. The third year they'd be better off clerking or practicing in a firm, even if they weren't getting paid that much."

The president, a former University of Chicago law school lecturer, was injecting some levity into what is, yes, a controversial topic. The issue of two- versus three-year programs is at the center of a hot debate in legal education circles.

But his humor had a basis in truth. And it's true that as a president who no longer has to worry about re-election, the habitually cautious Obama is freer to wade into controversies he might have avoided in his first term.

Some observers certainly believed that's what they saw earlier this summer after George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

Maybe the president would have spoken as unequivocally as an African-American if the verdict had come before Election Day. But some who heard him were sure he spoke the way he did because re-election worries were behind him.

Of course, the president himself signaled last year that he would be freer to act after his re-election.

It wasn't a signal meant for public consumption, but remember when Obama told then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" after his re-election?

Being unbound may not make it any more likely that he gets his legislative proposals through the GOP-led House. But he could kick-start a few interesting national discussions, if nothing else.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

He Died At 32, But A Young Artist Lives On In LA's Underground Museum

When Noah Davis founded the museum, he wanted to bring world-class art to a neighborhood he likened to a food desert, meaning no grocery stores or museums. Davis died a year ago Monday.
NPR

The Strange, Twisted Story Behind Seattle's Blackberries

Those tangled brambles are everywhere in the city, the legacy of an eccentric named Luther Burbank whose breeding experiments with crops can still be found on many American dinner plates.
WAMU 88.5

State Taxes, School Budgets And The Quality Of Public Education

Budget cutbacks have made it impossible for many states to finance their public schools. But some have bucked the trend by increasing taxes and earmarking those funds for education. Taxes, spending and the quality of public education.

NPR

Listen: 'Web Site Story,' NPR's Musical About The Internet — From 1999

Found in our archives: an Internet-themed remake of West Side Story from the dot-com bubble era. It begins with Bill Gates and features the sound of a modem but isn't as obsolete as you might expect.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.