MER – Obama’s strong finish in 2014

Obama’s strong finish in 2014It has been a strange year for Barack Obama Despite a strong economy, the Democrats lost the midterm elections to the Republicans in a humiliating way. The Senate is now in the hands of the opposition and Obama is the walking definition of a lame duck president.

With his legislative agenda hampered, everyone expected Obama to accept his fate and finish his last two years in search of a legacy and a voice. Yet, to the surprise of many, Obama now appears more determined than ever to fight Republican obstructionism with the prerogative of the executive office.

In many ways, Obama is not only legally but also politically entitled to do so. After all, the economy has been stronger than ever in the last 10 years, with growth restored to healthy levels and unemployment below 2005 levels.

The healthcare law passed and the number of uninsured Americans is down by 10 million. There is also good news on the budget front, with the national debt and fiscal deficit in a downward trend.

Yes, Obama lost the mid-term elections despite such good economic data, mainly because of income stagnation. But with incomes beginning to rise as of last month, consumer confidence is coming back.

This is why Obama believes he deserves more political credit than what the polls seem to indicate. After the mid-term defeat he decided to keep his chin up and use his last two years in power without much reservation.

Only two months have passed since the elections, and Obama has shown his determination to do so in three major cases. First came his visit to China and the Asia-Pacific region, with historic agreements made after years of negotiations in climate, economic and military talks.

The visit symbolized a pivot to Asia with substantial results. Needless to say, Obama badly needed some foreign policy points after a disastrous spring and summer, during which Russia annexed Crimea and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)onquered large parts of Syria and Iraq.

After his successful trip to Asia, Obama decided to focus on domestic politics. The issue he selected was one of the most polarizing items in American politics: immigration reform In a prime-time speech to the nation, Obama declared that he will bypass the House of Representatives, which blocked Senateand#39s immigration bill.

It was time to honor his political commitment to the millions of mostly Hic voters asking amnesty for undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation. Not surprisingly, Obamaand#39s executive order to pardon 5 million future Democratic voters infuriated the Republicans, who wanted to savor their mid-term victory by emasculating himFinally, as 2014 was coming to a close, Obama finished the year in style with an astonishing declaration that the US was restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba Needless to say, this final salvo exacerbated Republican frustrations even furtherWhy all this should be relevant for Ankara? 2015 will be a critical year for Turkish-American relations.

It is no secret that the White House is very frustrated with the Turkish reluctance to play ball against ISIL.The common refrain that I hear in Washington is that this is not the way a NATO ally should behave in times when solidarity is of essence.

The current situation is a litmus test for arguments about Turkeyand#39s much-taunted geo-strategic importance. After all, what good is Incirlik Air Base if it is not used in times like today, against a barbaric foe like ISIL?One should also remember that Turkey counts on its strategic importance each time Congress considers resolutions about the Armenian genocide.

In case Ankara continues to drag its feet regarding ISIL, an unhinged Obama may decide to use his new-found executive voice with an unexpected recognition of the Armenian genocide on the centennial of the tragedy. If Ankara is complacent about the centennial on the grounds that the Republicans are dominating Congress, it is time to think twice.

Obama may be running out of patience with Ankara.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman