Soon after winning his second term in office, Barack Obama began to compose his exit strategy. He ran the presidential race purely with the goal of winning, espousing whatever political banalities he needed to in order to beat his rival. He no longer held any illusions about pulling the country out of the recession single-handedly or successfully extricating the United States from the quagmire of Middle Eastern conflicts. And, after winning a second term in office, he recognized that voters had not given him a mandate to stay the course, but merely desultory permission to keep his job.
Following his return to office, against relentless Republican attacks, Obama grimly persevered with the launch of the Affordable Care Act. The initial failure of the health care's website invited an unending barrage of criticism. But it no longer mattered to him. His triumph was in making it the law of the land, which saved his legacy, even if it offered no clear victory for the working class.
White House Down
There's no doubt about it. Barack Obama's second term in office has been a joyless one. It is clear in his demeanor, each time he speaks to the cameras, that he lacks the fiery spark of conviction in his ability to change the world, and rather grips the cold amber of truth that if a single man could make a difference and leave his mark on history - he isn't the one.
Two and a half years into his final term, Obama no longer makes an effort to craft his speeches in a way that illuminate the fundamental truth and legitimacy of his objectives, but rather to protect his political position. He no longer champions national policies but suggests them. He no longer pushes against the current of opinions, but goes along with them. He makes appearances at the sites of tragic gun violence and natural disaster to offer hackneyed words of condolences, and moves on.
Second to None
It probably piques him, but I believe it no longer frustrates him to know that he once achieved approval ratings that were the worst for a President since World War II, according to a Quinnipiac National Poll. Though misery loves company, he finds no consolation in the knowledge that the Republican Party, which relentlessly and blindly fought him at every turn, also drowned in its Pyrrhic victory, taking down, not only itself, but all of Washington. Today, just 12% of likely U.S. voters think Congress is doing a good job. Sixty-three percent (63%) think they get reelected because election rules are rigged to benefit incumbents, according to the latest Rasmussen poll.
The truth is: the President of the United States is tired. Barack Obama, who came into office with so much hope and promise in 2009, is now simply marking time in the White House, steeling his resolve against years of bitter, relentless defeats that have stripped away his once-inspiring loftiness of purpose.
But I don't think he will leave office a bitter man. He will leave it, instead, a more thoughtful man.
I believe that, like raging enemies in battle, he will meet his Republican rivals in a bar one night and toast to their health. Their fight in the political arena of Washington was nothing personal, after all. It was just business as usual.