Obama sheds sum­mer curse, in time for fall


U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama may have fi­nally shed his sum­mer curse — just in time for a daunt­ing fall.

Af­ter a string of sunny sea­sons gripped by con­tro­versy, crises and plum­met­ing pop­u­lar­ity, the sum­mer of 2015 has been among the most pro­duc­tive stretches of Obama’s pres­i­dency. Late June vic­to­ries in the U.S. Supreme Court on health care and gay mar­riage, along with a win for his trade agenda on Capi­tol Hill, were fol­lowed by the land­mark Iran nu­clear deal in July and the rais­ing of the U.S. flag over a new em­bassy in Cuba in Au­gust.

In­stead of be­ing over­shad­owed by the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Obama’s agenda has of­ten been driv­ing the de­bate among the can­di­dates run­ning to re­place him.

And yet to the pres­i­dent, one of his sum­mer’s big­gest suc­cesses may sim­ply be mak­ing it through his an­nual va­ca­tion on the tony Mas­sachusetts is­land of Martha’s Vine­yard largely un­in­ter­rupted. While his sum­mer trou­bles have of­ten trailed him on pre­vi­ous va­ca­tions, he’s poised to close out this year’s trip Sun­day with­out any state­ments to the press or public ap­pear­ances, be­yond a few glimpses or him on the golf course and bik­ing with his fam­ily.

“The pres­i­dent has ab­so­lutely ap­pre­ci­ated the op­por­tu­nity to take these two weeks out­side of the hus­tle and bus­tle of Washington and spend some time with fam­ily and friends,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. “Once we re­turn to Washington, our agenda is packed, so the pres­i­dent is grate­ful for some rest and re­lax­ation in ad­vance of what will be a very busy fall.”

In­deed, the pres­i­dent re­turned to Washington with a full sched­ule and con­fronta­tions with Congress that will help de­ter­mine whether his sum­mer mo­men­tum is sus­tained or sput­ters.

Atop the pres­i­dent’s pri­or­i­ties is pre­vent­ing Congress from block­ing the Iran deal, which curbs Tehran’s nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for bil­lions of dol­lars in sanc­tions re­lief. Obama will likely have to veto a res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval by law­mak­ers, blem­ish­ing his sig­na­ture for­eign pol­icy ini­tia­tive, but he ap­pears on track to garner enough sup­port from Democrats to hold off Repub­li­can over­ride ef­forts.

Seek­ing to bol­ster his legacy abroad, Obama will also be push­ing for a global cli­mate treaty and fi­nal­iza­tion of a free trade agree­ment with Asi­aPa­cific na­tions. His string of sum­mer suc­cesses be­gan with Congress agree­ing to a fast-track ap­proval process for the trade pact when ne­go­ti­a­tions are com­plete.

Septem­ber also holds a White House meet­ing with Pope Fran­cis, a state visit for main­land Chi­nese leader Xi Jin­ping, where Bei­jing’s high-pro­file hack­ing will be on the agenda, and the pres­i­dent’s an­nual trip to New York for the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly.

For Obama, now deep in his sec­ond term, a busy, high-stakes agenda sure beats the al­ter­na­tive. His pres­i­dency ap­peared to be quickly slip­ping into lame-duck ter­ri­tory last year, but be­gan to re­bound af­ter Democrats’ defeats in the midterm elec­tion and picked up mo­men­tum this sum­mer.

Sum­mer has pre­vi­ously been Obama’s cru­elest sea­son: the hos­tile health care town halls in 2009, the debt ceil­ing cri­sis in 2011, the pres­i­dent’s waf­fling on Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons use in 2013. Last sum­mer was con­sumed by the swift rise of the Is­lamic State group and its grue­some be­head­ing of Amer­i­cans, as well as ten­sions in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, af­ter a white po­lice of­fi­cer fa­tally shot an 18-year-old black man.

Free this year from an all-con­sum­ing cri­sis, the pres­i­dent spent most of the two-week sum­mer va­ca­tion on the golf course, at the beach and din­ing out with his fam­ily. He also at­tended a party on the is­land thrown by Demo­cratic power bro­ker Ver­non Jor­dan, who also hosted an even last year where Obama was spot­ted on the dance floor.

But there were no im­ages of Obama danc­ing this year. Per­haps in a sign that even a pres­i­dent rid­ing high in his sec­ond term has a short shelf life, the band in­stead posted a video of a danc­ing Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, the top con­tender to be the next Demo­cratic pres­i­dent.

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