“He’s going to go out as true Barack Obama,” says historian Douglas Brinkley. Brinkley is referring to a Barack Obama who–with the midterm elections done and nothing left to run for–is no longer beholden in many ways. It’s inevitable that presidents consider their legacies in their final years in office and Obama is no exception. The president has been exercising his executive powers, acting alone on immigration reform and reopening diplomatic relations with Cuba, for starters.
It’s not unusual for a president in the second half of a second term to act more independently. Especially since it’s also practically a custom that a sitting president in year 6 loses whatever advantages he had in congress. (The recent midterm election wipeout has much historical precedent.) If the president really intends to go out as the “true Barack Obama”–presumably loyal to his 2008 campaign promises–expect action on Guantanamo before he goes. Can he close the prison there, and fulfill a key campaign promise he made that ran into reality when he took office? The timing of the congressional “torture” report seems to have been set up as a precursor for Guantanamo action.