Obama’s Last Chance to Save His Presidency

October 22, 2014 Topic: Foreign PolicyThe Presidency Region: United States

Obama’s Last Chance to Save His Presidency

A presidency that began with lofty expectations has devolved into steadily defining them down. But now Obama can restore his fortunes by acting decisively abroad. 

The United States is in the middle of trade negotiations with Asian and Latin American states that seem to be stalled. Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, has been doing a great job trying to push matters along, but he will need major help from his president and from Congress to see that the next two years do not go down the drain. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the best hope for increasing regional trade, and regional trade is the best hope for powering U.S. economic growth. All these constitute good reasons for Obama to focus on the Asia pivot.

The agenda proposed here—the opening to Iran, the fight against the jihadis, exploring diplomacy with Russia regarding Ukraine, and reinvigorating the pivot to Asia—does not represent an impossible dream. It can be accomplished by a wounded president without the services of a Brent Scowcroft or a James Baker. It can be done in the last two years of a second presidential term. It requires only a president who understands that he has the power to act if he puts strategies together with precision and explains them clearly to the American people and the world.


Leslie H. Gelb is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, a former New York Times columnist, and a former senior Defense and State Department official. He wishes to thank his research associate John T. Nelson for his contributions to this article.