November 2014 sure does seem like a long time ago, but that’s when much of the Beltway media decided Barack Obama’s presidency was effectively over. Republicans had just completed a very successful election cycle and Obama, defeated, was supposed to be relegated to irrelevance.
After all, we’ve seen the script for “lame duck” presidents, and it tends to be … dull. Obama, down in the polls, couldn’t credibly expect to do anything meaningful in his remaining time in office – not after suffering an ugly electoral rebuke – and the establishment agreed that it was time for the president to accept that ascendant Republicans would start calling the shots.
So much for that idea.
I came across the transcript recently of the president’s year-end press conference from December and this line stood out for me:
“My presidency is entering the fourth quarter; interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter. And I’m looking forward to it.”
He apparently wasn’t kidding. Have you noticed just how busy the president has been since the 2014 elections ostensibly ended his time in office?
I started sketching out some of Obama’s successes from the last nine months, and it quickly dawned on me how long the list is. Obviously, the nuclear agreement with Iran is foremost on everyone’s mind today, but since November 2014, it’s not the only foreign policy accomplishment. Obama also reached a climate agreement with China – a breakthrough few thought possible – and overhauled U.S. relations with Cuba, reversing decades of failure.
As if that weren’t enough, he also continued to shrink the prison population at Guantanamo Bay and freed American prisoners in North Korea.
Domestically, since November, Obama announced a major new immigration policy protecting millions of families, improved important new overtime rules, saw his Affordable Care Act withstand a court challenge and push the uninsured rate to all-time lows, and welcomed marriage equality to the entirety of the nation.
About a month after the midterms, Republicans seemed dumbfounded by the president’s ambition. “Didn’t he see the election results?” GOP lawmakers kept asking. “Doesn’t he realize he lost?”
I’m sure he did realize it, just as I’m sure he didn’t see the point in giving up. If the public is disappointed by the defeated president continuing to govern, it’s not reflected in the polls – Obama’s approval rating is up, not down.
I guess interesting stuff does happen in the fourth quarter.