A "Gratifying" Week for Obama

A "Gratifying" Week for Obama
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There was no “irrational exuberance” on display in the East Room Tuesday. No fist-bumps or braggadocio about being “fearless.” No over-the-top predictions about a new bipartisan “spring” in Washington, or threats about a pen and a phone in what President Obama calls his fourth quarter.

Congress passed his trade agenda last week. The Supreme Court rescued the Affordable Care Act for a second time, and justices gave gay couples the legal right to marry in 50 states. Sandwiched in between was an Obama eulogy for nine murdered South Carolina residents. He sang “Amazing Grace,” and attracted a lot of attention. He lamented racism and hatred in America.

Asked if he’d just experienced his best week, the president joked about the joy of his wedding to Michelle, the births of his two daughters, and putting 27 points on the board in one basketball adventure.

“I've had some good weeks in my life, I will tell you. And I'm blessed to have had those,” Obama said.

“I think last week was gratifying.”

The president offered a personal highlight reel: enacting fast-track trade legislation after months of lobbying, salesmanship and legislative maneuvers, and despite stiff opposition from members of his own party. (“Being able to get that done was very important.”) And he took a bow for same-sex marriage, in which his personal role as president has been modest, but the White House reaction Friday proved so showy.

“I did not have a chance to comment on how good the White House looked in rainbow colors,” he said, referring to the outdoor spotlights that drew amazed crowds to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “That made it a really good week … That's a moment worth savoring.”

But with the sweet, there is reality. Obama touched on a handful of unfinished business matters as he spoke to reporters while standing alongside Brazil’s visiting president.

“The list is long. And what we're going to do is just keep on hammering away at all the issues that I think are going to have an impact on the American people. Some of them will be left undone, but we're going to try to make progress on every single one of them,” he said.

He aspires to an enforceable, verifiable nuclear-weapons pact with Iran (negotiations in Vienna have been extended from June 30 to July 7); a global agreement later this year to mitigate climate change; a lasting solution to the spread of Islamic extremism and war; and a change of heart in Congress about policies he favors to boost the U.S. economy. (The president has also appealed to global partners to get creative about Europe’s recession and to help save Greece from itself).

In one way or another, all of those issues will be sitting on the desk in the Oval Office on inauguration day in 2017. In a year and a half, Obama becomes a bystander. At the moment, he feels like he’s sailing with the wind.  

 “Are we going to make this a more inclusive economy, a more inclusive society, a more fair [and] just society?” Obama said, suddenly turning to a seaman’s metaphor. “If that's our North Star and we keep on tacking in that direction, we're going to make progress. And I feel pretty excited about it. So, I might see if we can make next week even better.”

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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