Obama Behind the Scenes
President Barack Obama has ended his two-week vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and he now faces several crucial tests that will go a long way toward shaping his legacy.
At the top of Obama’s agenda in Washington is winning congressional approval for a nuclear deal with Iran, negotiated with five U.S. allies and designed to keep the Tehran regime from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting a variety of sanctions against Iran. The Republican-controlled House and Senate are likely to disapprove the deal but Obama has pledged to veto such legislation and the GOP appears to lack the votes to override him. This means the deal is likely to survive. Obama considers it one of the biggest priorities of his second term and the political battle during the next few weeks will be intense.
Obama also will be pushing Congress to approve budget legislation by the end of September in order to avoid a government shutdown. Complicating this goal is strong conservative opposition to federal funding of Planned Parenthood in a dispute over abortion and the disposal of fetal tissue.
In another budget issue, Obama wants Congress to fund a large number of infrastructure projects such as building and repairing roads, bridges and sewers. And he will be pushing Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
Obama also is expected to issue more executive orders and take unilateral actions on a variety of issues, including climate change, and bypass Congress, which is blocking many of his proposals. He will attempt to get more congressional and public support for his actions to limit global warming in speeches Monday in Las Vegas and Thursday in New Orleans. The New Orleans address will mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast in 2005. Obama also plans to discuss climate change and energy policy during a visit to Alaska in early September.
And his efforts at personal diplomacy will get more extensive as Obama is scheduled to meet separately next month in Washington with President Xi Jinping of China and Pope Francis.
Politically, Obama will be the man in the middle of the Democratic presidential campaign. He isn’t eligible to run for a third term in 2016 but he is in the delicate position of dealing with the candidacy of front-runner Hillary Clinton, Obama’s former secretary of state during his first term, and the potential candidacy of Joe Biden, Obama’s loyal vice president who is considering a run for the White House. If Biden joins Clinton in the race, it will create an awkward situation for the president because both Biden and Clinton would want his endorsement, which could help to solidify support among Democrats.
Overall, Obama’s job ratings are sagging again after a brief rebound. Fifty-one percent of the voters disapprove of his job performance and only 47 percent approve, according to the latest CNN/ORC poll. In late July, Obama did somewhat better, with 49 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving.
Obama is apparently being weighed down by setbacks in foreign policy, a spokesman for the pollsters says, notably the military gains being made by Islamic extremists in the Mideast. About 62 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of the Islamic extremists. Sixty percent disapprove of his management of relations with Iran.
At home, 52 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy while 47 percent approve, a reversal from 52 percent approval and 47 percent disapproval in June.