Obama’s Final Weeks As President


Mickey Masterson

By Mickey Masterson ’17, Perspectives Section Editor

We are witnessing the end of a political era. At the end of this week, President Barrack Obama will pass the torch to President-elect Donald Trump. While Congress has refused to acknowledge our president’s authority for about a year, considering the Senate’s stubborn refusal to even meet to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy, he still has been able to perform some last minute actions in spite of his lame-duck status and emerging distractions such as the Russian hack on the November election.
Russia’s interference in our elections is simply unprecedented, regardless of whether it significantly influenced the results. Our incoming President blatantly refuses to acknowledge involvement of the Russian government in the hacking and subsequent release of the DNC emails. Understandably, Mr. Trump does not want to do anything to delegitimize his extremely narrow victory last November in direct contrast to the unanimous conclusion of the entire US intelligence community and the outrage from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Thus, President Obama has been walking on a tightrope between paving the way for a smooth transition, as his predecessor graciously did for him, and punishing Russia for their unwarranted actions. Earlier this month, Mr. Obama retaliated against Russia, issuing sanctions on key individuals, deporting supposed Russian spies disguised as diplomats, and closing down Russian compounds on US soil. Mr. Obama seems to be attempting to force Mr. Trump into a corner. Considering Mr. Trump’s potential ties to Russia and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson’s friendship with Putin, it will be interesting to see if this mini-Cold War persists–or not–in the coming administration.

Aside from Mr. Obama’s powerful abilities as Head of State, he has also used his ceremonial abilities as well. He has given a significant number of Presidential Medals of Freedom to people who will likely be unrecognized for their merits under Mr. Trump’s tenure. Most notably, he bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction upon a tearful Joe Biden. To commemorate his successful eight years in office, President Obama gave a final speech in Chicago, bidding the nation a final and meaningful farewell.