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Published: Monday, 12/27/2010

Obama scores

The shots to the bow endured by President Obama and his fellow Democrats in last month's election raised questions about the President's ability to lead the country over the next two years. Against expectations, though, his achievements in Congress' postelection lame-duck session suggest that all is not lost.

It would be a stretch to say that the legislation Congress passed was a vindication of Mr. Obama's style of leadership. He extended his hand across the aisle to Republicans even as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell maintained that his priority is to see the President defeated in 2012.

Still, what the White House and Congress achieved in the just-ended lame-duck session is impressive. It included the end of the Defense Department's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays in the military. Some Republican lawmakers held their breath and dragged their feet, but it finally passed the Senate by a large margin.

A big win in foreign policy was the nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia. If it hadn't passed, the United States would have looked terrible to its treaty partner. Other nations would have seen America holding onto many more nuclear arms than it needs to defend itself, even as it preaches disarmament.

One disappointment was the failure of the Dream Act, which would grant a path to citizenship to young people in college or the U.S. military who were brought here illegally as children. The immigration issue remains too sensitive for sensible action in Congress.

Mr. Obama got half of his judicial nominees through, but only half. All of this was made possible, of course, by the bipartisan "compromise" to boost the national debt by nearly $900 billion with the tax-cut bill.

The damaging executive-legislative tug of war will resume in January, when a Republican majority in the House and a larger GOP minority in the Senate arrive. That may make many Americans nostalgic for the past two years.

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