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Under 3 weeks left: Obama in closing stretch of presidency

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    President Barack Obama accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama and his daughters Malia and Sasha, waves from Air Force One, upon their arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Monday, Jan. 2, 2017. The President and his family are returning from Hawaii after vacation.

WASHINGTON >> His last vacation behind him, President Barack Obama is entering the closing stretch of his presidency, an eleventh-hour push to tie up loose ends and put finishing touches on his legacy before handing the reins to President-elect Donald Trump.

Obama returned to Washington midday Monday from Hawaii with less than three weeks left. His final days will largely be consumed by a bid to protect his endangered health care law, a major farewell speech and the ongoing handover of power to Trump.

In an email to supporters on Monday, Obama said his valedictory speech on Jan. 10 follows a tradition set in 1796 when the first president, George Washington, spoke to the American people for the last time in office. The speech will take place at McCormick Place, a giant convention center in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

“I’m thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here,” Obama said.

Obama’s chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, traveled with Obama to Hawaii and spent much of the trip working on the speech. The Chicago trip will likely be Obama’s last outside Washington as president and will be include a “family reunion” for Obama’s former campaign staffers.

Obama is also planning last-minute commutations and pardons, White House officials said, in line with his second-term effort to cut sentences for inmates given unduly harsh sentences for drug crimes. Though prominent offenders like Edward Snowden and Rod Blagojevich are also asking for leniency, Obama’s final acts of clemency are expected to remain focused on drug offenders whose plight Obama tried but failed to address through criminal justice reform.

After taking office eight years ago, Obama and his aides were effusive in their praise for how Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, helped his team take over the massive federal bureaucracy. Obama has vowed to pass on the favor to Trump. But the transition hasn’t been without incident.

The two teams have clashed over the Trump team’s requests for information Obama aides fear could be used to eliminate government employees who worked on Obama priorities like climate change and minority rights overseas. Trump’s team, meanwhile, has been frustrated by Obama’s attempts to box Trump in with parting moves to block ocean drilling, declare new monuments and further empty out the Guantanamo Bay prison.

While on his annual vacation in Oahu, Obama asserted himself forcefully on two foreign policy issues that put him in direct conflict with Trump. Obama directed the U.S. to defy tradition by allowing a U.N. Security Council resolution criticizing Israel on settlements to pass, then slapped Russia with sweeping penalties over U.S. allegations of hacking.

The final days are Obama’s last chance to define his presidency before his loses the bully pulpit and cedes his legacy to historians. For Obama, helping Americans understand how his two terms have reshaped American life is even more critical amid concerns that Trump may undo much of what he accomplished, including the health law.

As Trump and Republicans vow to gut the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are working to devise a strategy to protect the law by exploiting GOP divisions about how to replace it. To that end, Obama will travel Wednesday to the Capitol to meet with House and Senate Democrats, likely his last meeting with his party’s lawmakers as president.

His administration is also working feverishly to finish up regulations in the pipeline that Obama hopes can be completed in the final days, perhaps increasing the likelihood his policies carry over. But the closer it gets to Trump’s inauguration, the harder those tasks become.

Though Obama remains president until Jan. 20, the White House can’t process the departure of all its staffers on a single day. So this week Obama aides will start “offloading,” turning in their Blackberries and shutting down their computers for the last time, leaving a smaller staff on hand for the final days.

Obama must also prepare to become a private citizen for the first time in two decades. An office of the former president must be stood up, and Obama’s family will be making arrangements to move into a rental home in Northwest Washington where they plan to stay until youngest daughter Sasha finishes high school.

The Obamas have long lamented how the presidency denied them freedom and privacy, with first lady Michelle Obama likening the White House to “a really nice prison.” But on their last Hawaii vacation, the first family took time out to visit Breakout Waikiki, where visitors are “trapped” in a room together and must try, as a team, to escape.

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  • Yes, three weeks to put his finishing touch on the worst two terms of any President bar none. After Trump gets done with him nobody except klastri, Allie, boots, boss and keaukaka will give 2 cents for his speech let alone buy his books.

  • ” . . . finishing touches on his legacy . . . ”

    his legacy is eight awful years that paved the way for the landslide victory of trump, an improbable candidate under any other circumstances. his legacy is exposing the bankruptcy of the democrat culture of corruption that allowed republicans to take control of both houses of congress, the majority of state governorships and the majority of state legislatures.

    yet, his legacy will not be all negative. his administration allowed americans to see through the arrogance of clinton’s spaghetti les team and the emptiness of their hate filled rhetoric directed at trump and anyone who supported him.

    his legacy is mildly redeemed in the resounding rejection of clinton as just another first of the worst, thus, saving america from falling even more into racial and class warfare.

    • How come the repugs never got their impeachment? Huh? They were screaming! IMPEACH. Crickets. Go tell your cousins,the Doomsday people to come out. For trumpf, the repugs will Impeach him,lol. This will be fun.

    • While trump won the election, his victory can hardly be considered a “landslide,” except maybe in the minds of him and his followers. He had one of the lowest margins of victory in the electoral college and lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. He, and the republican party, would do well to remember that when crafting policy if they are at all interested in bringing the country together.

      • You’re right, of course. His supporters make up stories here constantly about his “landslide” win.

        They need to repeat fourth grade arithmetic.

        • D_bullfighter, if so, why does trump and his followers keep trying to perpetuate the lie? His insecurity is showing.

        • I stated that all else is irrelevant – no matter whose side you take. I cannot surmise why other people think/behave – neither can you. Give it a rest.

  • a’ama’s legacy will be the death of the demoncRATs..he singlehandedly destroyed the party with the loss of 1000 federal and state holders and that gain went to the republican..his arrogance will lay claim to all the good things he did but history will dissect those “accomplishments” and will expose him to be the phoney he is..
    president donald trump will bring a fresh look and leadership that has been lacking and he will #MAGA!
    aloha president donald trump!!

    • Obama is the WHY the Dems are in total DISARRAY!
      That may be his LEGACY….World in RUINS is right up there…a DIVIDED America may be #1. Only time will tell.

      18 DAYS…#MAGA

  • From paragraph 6 of the article: “Obama’s final acts of clemency are expected to remain focused on drug offenders whose plight Obama tried but failed to address through criminal justice reform” Plight of drug offenders? The term plight implies that imprisoned drug dealers are just there due to unfortunate coincidences. Drug dealers sell poison to children and ruin millions of lives. The violence that comes with drug dealing is the reason 700 + people were murdered in Barry’s hometown in just one year. Drug dealers are a stain on society and deserve long prison sentences.

    • You would think that if he couldn’t get it thru criminal justice reform that he would bow to the will of the American public as presented thru the House , senate and justice department. But he just gotta play god , hopefully for the last time.

  • In a secret vote today, House Republicans demolished the Office of Congressional Ethics. Who needs ethics when you’re “draining the swamp?” If you fell for that draining the swamp line, here’s the first bit of evidence that Republicans in the new Administration are wallowing in the swamp like it’s hot tub.

  • Malia always seem to enjoy and have a good time beside her father. Sasha, on the other hand can’t seem to wait until her privacy is restored. Typical teenager’s moods or a person whose privacy is her most precious asset! Wishing her and the whole family peace and a great life after eight memorable years! Godspeed!

  • This guy just had to take a vacation paid by the tax payers just weeks before he leaves office. He will spend the rest of his time in the White House giving away
    more Medals of Freedom to undeserving friends, movie stars and athletes. Trump should change the name of the award as Obama has given so much of them
    away, the medal has become insignificant and meaningless.

    • Willman:

      “Yes Obama’s hometown CHICAGO !!! The AP finally got it right. He was born in Hawaii and vacations in Hawaii every year and that’s it.”

      True he vacations in Hawaii every year but… there’s doubt regarding his place of birth.
      A bogus birth-certificate, with an inaccurate hospital-name, printed in wrong color ink, can be bought on the internet.

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