Obama and the Lessons That Will Guide Him in 2015

Obama and the Lessons That Will Guide Him in 2015
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President Obama’s personal ambition this week may have been as simple as improving his chip shot, but before he abandoned Washington for Oahu’s lush golf greens at the end of 2014, the president’s public reflections sounded a lot like “Lessons I Plan to Apply to Governing After Six Bumpy Years.”

Selected from Obama’s interview Dec. 18 with National Public Radio, the following reflections are not quite the 44th president’s New Year’s resolutions, but certainly are examples of his resignation, combined with ambition, as 2015 arrived:

Big changes take time, and the U.S. economy is and remains No. 1

“Think about how much energy was required for us to yank ourselves out of the economic circumstances we were in when I came into office. … It took up a lot of time.”

Political costs, unfortunately, are felt faster than policy dividends

“Health care [was] a big lift with significant political cost, but we're now seeing that it's paid off.”

Even experienced presidents should keep learning

“I can always do better in every aspect of my job, and congressional relations isn't exempt from that.”

Second-term presidents play a lot of defense to preserve what they’ve racked up

“I haven’t used the veto pen very often since I’ve been in office. … Now I suspect there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out, and I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made in health care … [and] on environment and clean air and clean water.”

Lots of Americans stopped listening to Washington’s Democrats in 2014, a problem as yet unresolved

“I think we had a great record for members of Congress to run on, and I don't think we -- myself and the Democratic Party -- made as good of a case as we should have. … As a consequence, we had really low voter turnout, and the results were bad.”

Around the world, U.S. engagement in 2015 is essential

“American leadership is more needed around the world than ever before, and that is liberating in the sense that a lot of the work that we've done is now beginning to bear fruit.”

Lame duck presidents tackle unfinished business so their successors don’t have to

“I have the ability to focus on some long-term projects, including making sure that everybody is benefiting from this growth and not just some [people]. … [Some international initiatives are] easier for a president to do at the end of his term than a new president coming in.”

Politically speaking, repeating any political advantage over Republicans is irresistible

“The fact that I've received 75 percent of the Latino vote and 70 percent of the Asian-American vote in the last two elections is something that the Republican Party should worry about because it's actually fixable for them.”

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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