By JIM KUHNHENN
WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Five months into President Barack Obama's second term, allies and former top aides worry that his overarching goal of economic opportunity has been diminished, partly drowned out by controversies seized upon by Republicans in an effort to weaken him.
The former White House insiders, including longtime Obama adviser David Axelrod, say Obama needs to make his case anew for government's role in expanding education and innovation and to give, as Obama put it in one of his early seminal speeches, "every American a fighting chance in the 21st century."
Among their suggestions is that the president deliver a major address, perhaps at a commencement, that once again places his economic vision at the center of his agenda and speaks to what continues to be the overriding concern of the American public.
Instead, absent major legislative victories, Obama's second term has become a series of small actions overshadowed by a trio of recent troubles over the administration's response to the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, the IRS's targeting of conservative groups and the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press phone records as part of a leak investigation.
"The hardest thing in the hot house of Washington in weeks like this is to get above the maelstrom and really define major issues in your own terms," Axelrod said. "They need to find big platforms, whether it's congressional addresses, commencement speeches, high-profile interviews or a combination of those things and others."
As these Democrats see it, there has been an arc of Obama addresses that have spelled out the challenge and the hope of attaining the American Dream, from a 2005 commencement address at tiny Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., to his speech in Osawatomie, Kan., in late 2011, and that the time for another one is now.