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U.S. President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi during a foreign leader call in the Oval Office, Jan. 5, 2015 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

For Obama, It’s Now or Never to Define His Legacy

Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama has returned from his holiday vacation in Hawaii to start a “barnstorming” tour across the United States to make the case for his domestic policy agenda in the run-up to the State of the Union address on Jan. 20. Faced with a new Republican-controlled Congress that will not be particularly hospitable to his proposals, Obama is likely to emphasize his core domestic priorities. When he does return to foreign policy matters after the address, Obama, like other “fourth quarter” presidents before him, will likely begin to sort the issues facing him in his last two years in office into several different baskets.

First, he will look for signature “legacy” issues that will help to define his administration. Second, he will assess what questions can be delayed or postponed for the next president to deal with. Finally, there could very well be a set of issues where Obama may initiate action but have no exit strategy in place, for himself or his successor. ...

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