After a week-long family getaway in Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama is back in Washington D.C. And while he was expected to take the rest of August to pick up on his economic agenda, it looks like the world has other plans for him.
Obama is mired in foreign policy and national security drama. A bloody crackdown by security forces in Egypt on protest camps of those loyal to ousted President Mohammed Morsi last week has left as many as 800 people dead. And though the Obama administration has condemned the violence, the fate of the more than $1 billion America gives Egypt a year in aid languishes in review.
Adding to Obama's foreign-affairs headache, the Washington Post recently published a damning internal National Security Agency audit leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden. It showed the government agency violated thousands of privacy rules since 2008, including – mostly unintentionally –the interception of private communication via email and phone calls without proper authorization.
Obama is expected to embark on a bus tour later this week through New York and Pennsylvania – in which he’s supposed to talk about the economy and strengthening the middle class. It’s an area he needs to improve on, with the 2014 midterms fast approaching. According to a new Gallup poll, Obama’s economic approval is a meager 35% -- down from 42% in June. And while it’s supposed to be just the latest in a series of economic speeches he’s set to give, the commander-in-chief may instead be facing growing questions on Egypt and the NSA.
It's not a story Obama's unfamiliar with. Over the summer, he kicked off a Middle Class Jobs and Opportunities tour. He focused on the economy and housing, even calling on winding down mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in Phoenix. He also reaffirmed his commitment to "rebuild the middle class" with a series of speeches in Galesburg, Ill., Jacksonville, Fla. and Chattanooga, Tenn.
However, much of the attention turned away from his domestic agenda and onto his foreign and national security one after Russian President Vladimir Putin granted temporary asylum to Snowden, which resulted in Obama canceling his Moscow summit with the Russian leader. Obama also announced plans to pursue reforms on the NSA's surveillance programs.
And now, Obama's economic agenda seems to have taken a backseat once again.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza said the commander-in-chief had the "worst week in Washington."
And Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told MSNBC that Obama’s economic agenda “has the real potential to get derailed He added, “…Given what’s going on in the NSA and Egypt, a lot of folks are accusing him of a lack of leadership.” Especially with Obama implementing key parts of his health care law and passing a budget by Sept. 30, avoiding government shutdown because of it, “He’s got his hands full,” O’Connell added.
Add to those full hands a crisis in Egypt.
Obama made public remarks from Martha’s Vineyard condemning the violence and the country’s interim government. He also announced the U.S. would cancel a planned joint military operation. But since the statements, some Republican lawmakers, including GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, have said that Obama did not go far enough, calling for the U.S. to suspend its aid to Egypt. Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island told NBC’s Meet the Press that “I do think we can send a strong signal by suspending aid.”
And on the NSA revelations, Obama –who has defended the agency but has vowed for transparency and to consider reforms--is also facing blowback from Republicans and Democrats alike. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called the latest report “extremely disturbing.” Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee said he wanted “honest and forthright” answers and would hold another hearing on the latest revelations.
Obama has had bad luck in the past with his post-vacation focus. In December, Obama flew back while vacationing with his family in Hawaii to avert the country going off the so-called fiscal cliff. He didn’t vacation at all in 2012 because of the election. And the summer of 2011 while he was in Martha’s Vineyard resulted in the ouster of Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy.