By E. J. Dionne

Obama’s Season Of Challenge

June 6, 2013 12:00 am Category: Memo Pad, Politics 35 Comments A+ / A-
Obama’s Season Of Challenge

WASHINGTON — What is President Obama fighting for? What is the point of his second term? His ability to answer these questions in a compelling way will have more to do with his success or failure than all the Republican congressional investigations combined.

Up to now, support for the president has held up in the face of the GOP offensive thanks to an improving economy and because many voters — especially Obama’s partisans — see the Republicans hyping problems into scandals to distract attention from their own divisions and their shortage of solutions.

The real danger for Obama is that the coming months could become a summer of discontent if those who currently back the president lose track of where he wants to lead the country and abandon hope in Washington’s capacity to make things better.

Already, there is a feeling of demobilization on the progressive side of politics. The liberal writer Paul Waldman captured the problem recently with this question on The American Prospect‘s website: “What is the grand battle in which liberals are now engaged?”

His response: “For the first time in a decade, there isn’t one.” While the next three years could well be “decisive for the liberal project,” he wrote, “it doesn’t feel that urgent to liberals.”

Obama needs to restore a sense of urgency. But how?

Given a president’s power, there are many ways for him to alter the media agenda, and he seized on some of them this week. On Tuesday, Obama announced three appointees to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, directly confronting Republican obstruction of his judicial nominees. Obama should have taken on this battle long ago, but it was a welcome step.

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Obama’s Season Of Challenge Reviewed by on . WASHINGTON -- What is President Obama fighting for? What is the point of his second term? His ability to answer these questions in a compelling way will have mo WASHINGTON -- What is President Obama fighting for? What is the point of his second term? His ability to answer these questions in a compelling way will have mo Rating:

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

    Hopefully, President Obama, with the help of a growing majority in Congress, will be able to bring immigration reform to a successful conclusion, will further strength the economy and reduce the rate of unemployment, and will bring the deficits down to a manageable level.
    The reason the problems encountered in recent months have been transformed into “scandals” by the opposition is not because of personal or programmatic failures, but because of the successes achieved during the past 4.5 years.
    The opposition, whose idea of socio-economic progress is limited to the privatization of Social Security, dismantling MEDICARE, underfunding MEDICAID, demonizing 47% of Americans, and rolling the clock back to the pre-civil rights era has no choice but to rely on deceit, distortions, hyperbole and outright lies to remain a viable alternative to one of the most effective administrations in modern history.

    • Elisabeth Gordon

      But Dominick, you’re forgetting that he’s still black…the Rethugs will never accept, or more importantly support, an African American President ~ they are truly traitors, ensconsed in their own stupidity and unfailing hatred of anything or anyone who truly wants America to remain the great democracy that it was, and could continue to be, if only we could rid our country of what once was the GOP and is now simply the TEA (Threatening Everything American) party.

      • rustacus21

        None of us can or will forget that 1 singular fact. But we of the Liberal/Progressive registry don’t have to do the same in continually (all be it, subtly) acknowledging it, knowing it makes not 1 damn bit of difference. Our failure to double-down on our support is the reason they (the opposition) are enabled to disrespect this President all the more. This was no more evident than the 2010 MidTerms, when none but the most ardent supporters composing part of only 39% of the national voting total which participated, ignoring the reality that the job of recovery from the 2008 Depression couldn’t be done in only 2 yrs! The help needed in Congress never arrived & as a result, left his administration adrift since. Being effectively under siege is no way to spend the whole of a two-term presidency. The last chance to make a difference may have already, passed, as this last 2 years promises to be scandal-ridden, just for the purpose of grinding all Congressional business to a complete halt. President Obama would serve his legacy well by re-focusing on the needs of the citizenry, beginning w/jobs & ignoring all the nonsense he isn’t OBLIGATED to even acknowledge. Then again, being unsure where the next round of scandal will break, as his entire administration is still inundated w/holdovers from the previous administration, determined to continue embarrassing & humiliating him w/childish (IRS), unprofessional (mortgage non-resolutions, by Edward DeMarco’s non-leadership) & downrite lethal (the Deep Water Horizon explosion, unnecessarily costing the lives of crew members & the Secret Service drunken, hooker-chasing episode in Columbia, due to lax leadership from another holdover – Mark Sullivan) behaviors, the opposition remains in total control. Prayers are still an appropriate alternative…

        • charleo1

          Well, right you are about us Democrats, Liberals, and
          we shouldn’t forget the Progressives. And, we should
          all mention, every once in a while, that a lot of what is
          going on now. That’s been going on, since Obama won
          his first election. We had the chance to show up in 2010.
          And we blew it. As a Party, we blew it. Because, I know
          many on here voted. I voted. Stay excited. In 2014, we
          have a great opportunity to turn whatever happens around,
          But we’ve just gotta show up!

      • angelsinca

        The problem with the ‘great democracy’ you envision is that a liberals-only caucus has already been tried countless times and failed. The dictator usually gets deposed.

    • plc97477

      Carl roves lack of success in the last election may mean the end of bowing down to the big money donors. I at least hope so.

  • TZToronto

    It’s time, while there is still time, to call the bluff of the GOP in Congress. How this is done–I don’t know. On the other hand, there is so much stupidity being belched by Congressional Republicans that it shouldn’t be too difficult to rebut them on just about everything. ACA will increase costs? Hey, everybody! Look at California. The deficit is climbing? Hey, everybody! Here are the numbers, and it’s falling. People are out of work? Hey, everybody! Look who won’t all allow jobs bills to see the light of day. President Obama’s packing the DC Court? Hey, everybody! There are eleven seats on the court, and three are vacant and need filling. This ain’t packing. And this is just scratching the surface.

    • plc97477

      The only way to call their bluff is to make sure as many as possible lose their jobs next year. Then maybe they will look at what they have done and hopefully change the way they do business.

  • latebloomingrandma

    Yesterday, the NBC Nightly News ended with a story about a high school girl who invented a cell phone charger that would recharge your phone in 20 seconds. She said her motto was that if she encountered a problem, she worked to solve it. My first thought was why couldn’t we have people like her in Congress? Can you imagine what our country would be like if 435 Congresspersons were actually problem solvers? Maybe this next generation will actually be the ones to put us back on the right track. If so the contrast couldn’t be more stark.. The great Congress of 2033–compared to the bottom of the barrel congress of 2013 with the losers Boehner ,McConnell, Reid, and that weird teaparty time. I hope I’m around to see it..

    • angelsinca

      “Maybe this next generation will actually be the ones to put us back on the right track …I hope I’m around to see it..”

      Same here. We stand a good chance to see it together, just as soon we reach consensus on what the right track is.

      The next gen could easily become The Ones. They are bright. I just hope they find places in their hearts for everybody, not just those that agree with them.

  • charleo1

    We’ve learned many things about Barack Obama, since he announced his
    intention to run for the Presidency, that bitter cold morning in Illinois. The idea,
    that this first term Senator, would even consider a run against Hillary Clinton,
    was seen by most of the political pundits, and, indeed by the vast majority of
    the Washington establishment, as foolhardy. Aganist the well oiled, and
    generously funded, political machine of the Clintons? That if anything, Obama’s
    announced intention to enter the race, was to raise his profile, and establish
    himself as a Party leader in the Senate. Or, perhaps to placate a circle of
    supporters, that seen in him, the possibilities of realizing a long held dream,
    many thought they would not live to see. The election of an African American,
    to the Nation’s highest office. As we’ve noticed, since his unlikely rise to grab
    the brass ring of American politics. In the optimism department, in his ability
    to believe in the promise of America. That no matter what station in life you
    start at, if you work hard, and dream big. In America, like no other place on
    Earth, you can turn your ambitions into reality. Could there be a more polar
    opposite of that, in the GOP? Their cynical, negativity, and anti-government
    rhetoric, is only surpassed by their willingness to obstruction, and their
    inability, to offer anything of value to the Country. Save, more reasons as to
    why it shouldn’t be done, or it can’t be done. Or, whatever it might be, we
    stand firmly in our collective, rejection of, and disagreement to, everything.
    To the existence of this President, this government, Washington D.C. And,
    even ourselves! Their one departure from no,, being the continuation of the
    expensive, and shameful support of America’s only gulag, at Guantanamo
    Bay, Cuba.

    • angelsinca

      A non-compliant GOP that questions, doubts and resists the direction the country is being dragged (kicking and screaming) is a genuine Godsend to the majority of Americans that have historic levels of mistrust for this gov’t.

      As you continue to ignore the significance of your own countrymen by mocking and ridiculing them for not bowing down to the progressive agenda, they will continue to question, doubt and resist you.
      Oddly enough, everybody DOESN’T want the same thing as you do. It is extremely unlikely they ever will want the same thing. Yet, you continue to stab at their character and fault everything THEY hold important.

      All you have to do is pursuade them your way is better. Maybe it isn’t.

      • charleo1

        This would be all well, and fine. But first the facts. If indeed, the
        majority of Americans truly felt they were being dragged, kicking,
        and screaming. Or thought the GOP was such a Godsend, by
        their continuing to obstruct the policies, and efforts of this
        President, and my Party. Or if, as you say, the levels of mistrust
        were actually, at such an historic high. Don’t you believe the American People would have made a different choice, in this
        last election? Because, as I have come to understand, that’s
        the reason we hold elections. To determine what the majority
        of the people prefers. Sometimes, it’s referred to as, the will of
        the people. Now, I know everyone doesn’t want the same things
        I do. But, oddly enough, more of them do want the same things
        I do, than, agree with you. And, so I feel the marching orders have
        been given. Wouldn’t you feel the same way. Americans elected
        Mitt Romney, and the Democrats just sat on their haunches. Just
        like the election had never happened? And, wouldn’t you feel
        entitled to mock, to ridicule, remind, and demand those Lefties,
        to allow your Party to have it’s majority? The people voted,
        you would say. And you’d be exactly right. The people voted.
        Last time I checked, the majority still rules. And, that’s contained
        right there in that Constitution, they have all sworn to uphold.
        And, I feel that, by God they ought to get to work, and do it.

        • angelsinca

          “And, wouldn’t you feel entitled to mock, to ridicule, remind, and demand those Lefties, to allow your Party to have it’s majority?”

          Probably not. The style doesn’t open the door to cooperation or being a nice person.

          How do you explain the polls showing a majority of Americans feel the country is on the wrong track? Does THAT majority not have a voice? It seems The Majority is constantly moving and shouldn’t be used as an excuse for excluding competing views and goals from the minority. Including the minority is an attribute I’ve been proud to share as an American. The righteous momentum of the majority needs to be tempered so the needs of the minority aren’t disregarded.

          • charleo1

            Now, you’re not being honest. The election is the poll.
            They can feel the Country is going in the wrong direction,
            because, they want a more liberal agenda. So, it’s not
            a good indicator. Yes. the minority always wants their
            rights observed. But, the agenda belongs to the majority.
            Or, why have elections at all? Minority rule is for dictators.
            Plus, in your first post, you were not about majority rights
            needing tempering. It was, thank God the Republican
            minority, is obstructing the Democrats. If we believe in
            democracy, we should abide by the results it produces.

          • angelsinca

            I am not being dishonest. I posed a valid question regarding the public opinion that the country is on the wrong track. A voting majority doesn’t have carte blanche to impose agenda without first gaining support of the legislature and, more importantly, public support. Both are waning. The slight majority of the presidential election only kept the man in office. The agenda doesn’t go with it. This takes cooperation and pursuasion. We’ll see how the majority feels next year as people start paying thousand dollar fines for not having health insurance. Nevermind growing privacy concerns. Got Verizon?

          • charleo1

            Well, I see you’ve got your opinions, which you’re entitled
            to. But, you can’t convince me, if the GOP was in the majority
            you would worry a lot about the Rights of the minority. As far
            as persuasion, the GOP have already decided they will not
            cooperate, with this President. And, after the way they’ve
            lied about Obama to their base. They couldn’t work with him
            now, if they wanted to. As far as healthcare, I can tell, you’ve
            been misinformed. And so, you will only learn the truth about
            healthcare reform, when it’s fully implemented.

          • angelsinca

            “But it sounds like U prefer pain & suffering for the ‘citizenry’ over ensuring opportunity to all”

            Wrong. You ramble a lot and make false assumptions. The repetition is boring. bye.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jane-Rimmer/100001147101417 Jane Rimmer

            “I posed a valid question regarding the public opinion that the country is on the wrong track.”
            Yes, because we’re still pushing to far to the right. The country is still on the wrong track to the ultra-right. We need to move left, to at least approach the center. That as the public opinion, that’s why the majority voted in a Democratic President. The major voted for the idea of hope and change, of moving to the center. The Tea Party/GOP/Republicans will not help move the country in the direction that the voters chose to go.

            Are you trying to claim that we voted in the Democratic slate because we wanted to go in the direction Mitt Romney wanted to take the country? That doesn’t make any sense.

          • angelsinca

            “Are you trying to claim that we voted in the Democratic slate because we wanted to go in the direction Mitt Romney wanted to take the country? That doesn’t make any sense.”

            I agree. This makes no sense. The slight majority (51%) that voted to re-elect Obama is comprised of a majority that just didn’t want a Romney presidency. It was not a green arrow to make a hard left.

  • dtgraham

    I’ve been waiting for an appropriate thread all week to post this in and this one seems to be close enough. I watched a Canadian political talk show last Sunday morning called Question Period. At one point they were discussing the Keystone pipeline. Veteran Canadian journalist Craig Oliver reported that his White House sources tell him that President Obama has now made up his mind to accept the pipeline and he’s putting a plan in place to make it palatable to everyone.

    He’s going to be announcing a bunch of environmental regulations and rules for those Enbridge pipes, designed to “get American environmentalists off his back” according to Oliver. The impression I got in listening to that segment was that these new rules would be largely for show, to placate his base. It didn’t sound as though there would be a whole lot of enforcement done. Keep in mind though that this is ‘supposedly’. Who knows if Oliver’s sources are correct, but it makes for some juicy political gossip. We’ll see what happens.

    The Province of British Columbia just announced their flat out refusal of the Keystone days ago but the Harper federal government pretty much knew in advance what they were going to do, and have been selling the White House hard on the Keystone for some time.

    It’s a shame that the timing of the federal election up here couldn’t have been better. Official Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair recently went to Washington to warn the President of the environmental catastrophes those Enbridge pipes, carrying that dirty sludge, will surely bring to America and to offer him whatever moral support he could give him to refuse it. Unfortunately, Thomas is not Prime Minister…yet.

    President Obama is a good man and a lot better man than the jerk we have at Sussex Drive right now. There are certain realities that have to be faced in American politics and he’s under tremendous pressure over this. I would cut him some slack.

    • charleo1

      America’s problem over the last two, or three decades is, when it comes
      to these corporations, we can’t seem to ever say no, and make it stick.
      And, we have paid mightily for it, over the years. Our financial system, untethered from sensible, and prudent oversight, was allowed to run
      amuck, nearly collapsing our economy. The unprecedented disaster of
      the BP Horizon, deep water drilling operation, was found to be, in large
      part, due to the same culture of accommodation to the oil industry, by government inspectors, as the crash of Wall Street was, a couple of
      years earlier. If the people of America will see this pipeline for what it
      is, and not what they are told it is, by a concerted promotional
      campaign, funded by the oil industry, it might be stopped. But, that’s
      another problem we have developed in this Country. At this time, it is
      up for debate, if the people are really in charge now. Or has it all been
      bought out by the special interests, and corporate money?

      • dtgraham

        I can read your pessimism between the lines charleo1. I try to be respectful and watch carefully what I say if I’m commenting at the Memo. Although I like poking fun at Republicans, certain national criticisms and agonized reflections are not for me to make. That’s for you guys to do. Some things are off limits to an outsider. I shout and moan on Canadian web sites. Every country has it’s problems for sure.

        That being said, I’ll be honest here and say that, to my eyes, the United States appears to be virtually ungovernable right now at the federal level. The American political system of divided gov’t requires much more cooperation and compromise than the Westminster Parliamentary system, with the possible exception of Johnston’s and Roosevelt’s gargantuan majorities. It cannot work with the number of extreme right wing, reactionary, anarchic bomb throwers coming out of those red states. Where a degree of Kumbaya is needed, ‘total war’ has taken it’s place.

        To me, the conservative media is a huge part of the problem. This became noticeable in the 90′s and they’re out of control now. It’s completely narrative and agenda driven and they clearly don’t care what they say any more. Lies, half lies, and distortions are the new truths in the alternative reality that they’ve created. The most recent tiny example? Fox News have known for some time that IRS commissioner Schulman signed in and visited the White House 11 times but have been screaming non stop that he explain why he visited 157 times. As this is just beginning to come out, they’re now softening their language just a touch by adding phrases like, “we don’t know all the facts yet.” They’ll continue this charade for some time and, in fact, may never drop it.

        I know MSNBC arose as the ethical liberal doppelganger to Fox News but I think they get overwhelmed. Fox has all the ratings, the overwhelming majority of talk radio is conservative, and the wingnuts are superb at filling the internet up with their sites, where they’re even more out of control if that’s possible. MSNBC and the MSM tend to adhere much more to facts and reality, which is a weakness these days.

        I’ll leave you with something from long ago. From a time before any of this. It’s as though Paddy Chayefsky knew what was to come. This is from 1976. From the movie Network.

        “You’re never going to get any truth from us.” “We’ll tell you anything you want to hear; we lie like hell.” “We’ll tell you any shit you want to hear.” “We deal in illusions.” “None of it is true, but you people just sit there….we’re all you know.” “You now believe the illusions we’re spinning.” “You now think that we’re reality and your own lives are unreal.” “You think whatever we tell you.”

        • charleo1

          After reading your very insightful, comment. I had to send
          back to you, a word of thanks, and agreement. As you fairly,
          and correctly, described the propaganda, gushing unabated
          from our former conservative, and now radicalized Right.
          I know many friends who frequent this site, will appreciate
          your observations. And some, due to the serious affliction
          you described so elegantly in your post, in all likely hood,
          will not. However, as an American, I want you to know, you have every Right here, to respond to them, or ignore them
          altogether, at your complete discretion.

        • angelsinca

          “the conservative media is a huge part of the problem”

          Sure it is, if you view dissent of liberal governing policy as a problem. A conservative media is just as important now as a liberal media is during a conservative governance.

          • rustacus21

            … “dissent”, or coordinated “subversion” of a high government official/office? The triangulation is more than clear, w/the ‘infrastructure’ put in place by the previous administration, they play off each others seditious activities, that spell a complete & all-encompassing impedimentary terrain for the entire legislative, executive & judiciary environments, from acting on behalf of the those who – according to the Constitution – hold supreme authority over government – the nation’s citizenry. U certainly haven’t read your Constitution otherwise, if U think the current ownership cabal of media nationally has no part in the absolute confusion/ignorance of such a huge portion of the entire citizenry, that they can’t even figure out how victimized they WERE between 2001 to 2009 & beyond?! Surely, devil’s advocacy is obviously your specialty!!!

          • angelsinca

            ” Surely, devil’s advocacy is obviously your specialty!!!”

            Surely, excessive use of vocabulary is your specialty. You could have just written, “It’s Bush fault” and saved your audience the bother of interpreting apedestrian attempt at clever.

            And to correct your assumptions, I meant ‘dissent’, I’ve studied the Constitution, and the citizenry isn’t as confused/ignorant as you expect they are.

          • rustacus21

            That’s far too simplistic & overdone, the ‘pointing of fingers AT…’ The taking for granted that technology moved forward & as a result, education, jobs, medicine, peace, economic opportunity, all expanding TO more Americans, in record time of just 4 years is pretty extremely, radically remarkable for an Arkansan ‘hick’. But getting back to the subject at hand, THIS President would have & still can do well to emulate the Clinton initiatives that created the greatest economic stimulus in probably the nation’s history. We can’t say that for any Republicans of the last half of the 20th century. Period. & if U want to use the Reagan ‘bubble’ economy, his was based purely on defense spending & shuffling paper (stocks), which, in the end, created both a stock market crash & a crash of the S&L industry. But it sounds like U prefer pain & suffering for the ‘citizenry’ over ensuring opportunity to all of the nation’s citizenry – as delivered by Prez Clinton. By whichever measure U choose – jobs, the stock mkt, pay equity, health care access, saving our children & men/women from the savagery of unnecessary war, competent policing of the streets & industry alike, U name it, Clinton had it covered. & even if U’r ‘inclinations’ are bodily fluid-stained dresses creating a multi-million dollar bidding war, well, U R conservative after all…

          • Sand_Cat

            Not sure there’s either a liberal media or a conservative one at this point. There’s the lunatic neo-Nazi radicals that I wouldn’t insult the memory of men like Barry Goldwater by calling “conservatives”, and there’s the center-right “liberal media” controlled by the corporatocracy and anxious to gain viewers by inflating everthing into a major “scandal,” with a few “liberal” and conservative outlets tucked in among them.

            I agree there needs to be a “loyal opposition” to – and hopefully in – any governing body if something like democracy is to be preserved. Problem is, there seem precious few among the right-wing opposition who could even be called “loyal” if we mean by that loyalty to the Constitution and the well-being of the nation. I know you disagree, but most of them seem unhinged, some have threatened secession – and appear to mean it – and none of them seem willing to work for peace and prosperity so long as a Democrat is president, never mind one with the wrong skin color. Complain about the “race card” all you like, but it works (and infuriates “conservatives”) because it’s true.

          • angelsinca

            Pretty much everything in your rant can be applied to the extreme left with the same conclusions reached, except for the racism thing. The left keeps trying to invoke it, where all other explanations have failed.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jane-Rimmer/100001147101417 Jane Rimmer

            “A conservative media is just as important now as a liberal media is during a conservative governance.”

            angelsinca – you are wrong here. The media should not be conservative or liberal. The media should be centered – it sure use pure journalism, dig out the facts and present them to the people in an unbiased form. The ultra-ultra right radio seems to have a purpose of driving up the hysteria in their conservative listeners, to get them past the right of center point, to hype the “us vs them” to the point that the “them” becomes Un-American, and some even get to the point of InHuman.
            America desperately needs more radio, tv and newspapers that research the facts and present them to the public as fact. No emotion, rants, blustering and lies. That is not liberal bias in media, just the facts.
            The Right wing Tea Party/GOP/Republicans could present a view of dissent against a liberal governing policy by presenting facts, and comparing ideas. Ranting, raving, misleading, telling lies, should not be a part in communicating ideas to your base. In this way, “the conservative media IS a HUGE part of the problem”.

        • plc97477

          I also would like to extend my permission to rant along with us as though you belong here, because you do.

          • dtgraham

            Thanks plc97477. Typical American generosity. As much as I love American politics though, I’ll still self regulate.

      • ralphkr

        Hey, charleo1, if you want to see how the states regulate the oil industry I suggest you read about an investigation of BP held in Alaska: http://www.adn.com/2010/06/26/1342800/bp-helped-state-investigate-itself.html

        Especially telling was the statement that although chart spinning was common in the Gulf of Mexico it was relatively rare in Alaska. I also love the fact that oil industry lawyers were invited to partake in the investigation as “a convenience to the witnesses” (Harr-Dee-Harr-Harr) and after one witness gave damaging testimony he was closeted in a room with said lawyer and immediately recanted his testimony upon reappearing before the investigators.

  • rustacus21

    I wouldn’t presume, but a new book that just came out, by Jeff Sachs, “To Move The World”, would be an excellent study for the President, in honing in on EXACTLY why he got into the Presidential sweepstakes in the 1st place – which I think he allowed his aides to sidetrack him from, as well as his steadily amassing enemies maligning him from – which was to putting a concrete overstructural ending to the 2008 Depression. All combined, Prez. Obama has yet to put any concerted focus on this initiative, which would encompass all other issues as a result! & who is best suited for this? The same person who has been there right from his political beginnings – Mrs First Lady – Michelle Obama!!! Her more significant role would be a refreshing & welcome addition to many issues that have languished & would hi-lite an untapped, hugely intellectual, insightful perspective that has yet to be showcased to any significant degree. Exercise & healthy eating are well & good, but her input would be exceptional in formulating a 2nd look at Citizens United, injecting a greater determination to counter gerrymandering & the watering down of election laws, but most importantly, formulating a multi-pronged counter-attack on the obstructions to cabinet level & judicial appointments, as well as upcoming (prospective) selections to the SCT. The 1st Lady is an Attorney if memory serves. But obviously, I’m not the only 1 overlooking this fact… these last 5 yrs…

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