Frustrated Obama Fights Courts, Congress, ISIS, Putin (Updated) (Video)
Updated 3:25 p.m. | The “fourth quarter” of President Barack Obama’s presidency isn’t exactly going according to plan.
All of the president’s frustrations appeared on full display Monday at the conclusion of the G-7 summit in Germany — with Obama taking on the courts, Congress, the Islamic State terror group and Vladimir Putin.
The courts have, of course, put a kibosh on his temporary executive amnesty — and potentially worse for his legacy — could wreck a key piece of Obamacare.
Congress, rather than trying to help out on those issues, is struggling just to enact something every prior president has had for decades — Trade Promotion Authority.
Iraq, an applause line during Obama’s re-election campaign when he repeatedly touted his decision to withdraw U.S. troops, has at times looked to be unraveling at the hands of the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, with the president now openly tasking the Pentagon with coming up with a partial strategy reboot.
And Putin continues to act like, well, Putin.
It’s clear the court cases that have ensnared the president’s immigration actions and his signature health care law have irritated him.
“Obviously, I’m frustrated by a district court ruling that now is winding its way through the appeals process,” Obama said of his stalled plan to grant temporary executive amnesty for as many as 5 million immigrants.
He said he remains confident he has the authority to take the actions he proposed. But he noted Congress could still act, and said he hoped, without much apparent expectation, that at some point “quiet conversations” would start up again on the Republican side to get it done.
“We will continue to push as hard as we can on all fronts,” he said.
Obama sounded far more unhappy when asked about the King v. Burwell case before the Supreme Court.
“This should be an easy case. Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up,” he said.
Obama said if the court ruled against his administration, millions would suddenly lose the subsidies they needed to afford health insurance, disrupting the insurance markets in their states.
“It’s not something that should be done based on a twisted interpretation of four words in — as we were reminded repeatedly — a couple-thousand-page piece of legislation,” he said.
He said the “bizarre” thing about the case is that the law is working better than expected.
“None of the predictions about how this wouldn’t work have come to pass,” Obama said.
There are 16 million people with health insurance as a result and costs are lower than projected, so, “It doesn’t need fixing,” he said. “Congress could fix this whole thing with a one-sentence provision,” he noted, before seeming to acknowledge that wasn’t in the cards.
“This would be hard to fix,” he added.
Foreign affairs aren’t looking any easier for the president.
After a meeting with Iraq’s prime minister, Obama said he’s reviewing a range of plans to ramp up the training of Iraqi security forces.
“When a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people,” Obama said. “We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well.”
The remark comes nearly a year after the president said he didn’t yet have a strategy to defeat ISIS, and weeks after the White House denied Obama was considering changing his strategy after the fall of the city of Ramadi.
The broader strategy still seems set, with Iraqis taking the lead. But Obama seemed to suggest more Americans might be heading back to Iraq.
“All the countries in the international coalition are prepared to do more to train Iraqi security forces if they feel like that additional work is being taken advantage of,” Obama said. “And one of the things that we’re still seeing is — in Iraq — places where we’ve got more training capacity than we have recruits.”
And that, he said, also requires efforts to reach out to Sunni tribes.
Putin and Russia also continue to flummox the president. Obama, as he has in the past, painted the issue of Ukraine in stark terms.
“He’s got to make a decision: Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire? Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?”
But there were no sweeping new sanctions announced — instead there was a commitment to extending sanctions and a nod to possibly increasing sanctions in the future.