In final year, Obama seeks to stave off lame-duck status
Published 2:26 pm Saturday, December 26, 2015
WASHINGTON — In June, during one of the best stretches of his presidency, Barack Obama strode through a West Wing hallway exclaiming, “Offense! Stay on offense!”
It was a rallying cry for a White House that suddenly seemed to find its footing in the final quarter of Obama’s tenure. An Asia-Pacific trade agreement was moving forward, as was the diplomatic opening with Cuba and work on an historic nuclear accord with Iran. The Supreme Court upheld a key tenant of the president’s long-embattled health care law and legalized gay marriage nationwide. Even in the depths of tragedy following a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, the president struck an emotional chord with his stirring eulogy for the victims.
“I said at the beginning of this year that interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter — and we are only halfway through,” Obama said during his annual year-end news conference.
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But the seventh year of Obama’s presidency also challenged anew his cautious and restrained approach to international crises, particularly in the Middle East. Attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, heightened fears of terror on American soil and Obama’s attempts to reassure Americans fell flat. And a seemingly endless string of mass shootings elsewhere in the country exposed the sharp limits of Obama’s power to implement the gun control measures he speaks of with passion.
Obama now stares down 11 months before his successor is chosen in an election shaping up to be a referendum on his leadership at home and abroad. He stirs deep anger among many Republicans, a constant reminder of his failure to make good on campaign promises to heal Washington’s divisiveness. But he remains popular among Democrats and foresees a role campaigning for his party’s nominee in the general election.