After Hawaii holiday, Obama returns to polar vortex of politics

President Obama must feel as though his Hawaiian Christmas holiday was way too brief. He has now left the palm trees of his birthplace far behind and is back in Washington, with a polar vortex chilling most of the country and Republicans still frozen in contrarian disagreement with everything he does and says -- some even disputing the location of his birth.

For once, the president’s vacation was not interrupted by an emergency of some kind. He played a lot of golf, went to a basketball game, hung out with his family and avoided most public appearances, except when he visited his favorite shaved ice shop. Reporters covering him had very little to do except thank the tiki gods that they were in sunny Honolulu and not back home waiting for an ice storm to hit.

On the political docket now is a three-month extension of unemployment benefits, a revived push for immigration reform and the ongoing convulsions over the Affordable Care Act, with every debate skewed by maneuvers by both parties to gain advantage in the upcoming midterm elections. This is the moment for Obama to make a big push for his agenda. Stymied for five years on so many of the things he hoped to accomplish back in the heady days of “hope" and "change,” the president has only months to go before all the talking heads will be chattering nonstop about the 2016 presidential campaign and declaring Obama a lame duck.

If Republicans take control of both houses of Congress in November -- as they well might do -- the president will be more than lame; he will be a dead duck as far as getting any legislation enacted.

It would be no surprise if Obama has grown weary of it all. What normal person wouldn’t be? Sure, being president of the United States, “the most powerful man in the world,” is a singular experience and extremely rare opportunity, but there are plenty of days when Obama must feel much less than all-powerful.

A walk on a Hawaiian beach can alter one’s perspective. The concerns of the outside world grow distant and the island rhythms seep into the soul. Having spent much of his youth on Oahu, Barack Obama understands the allure of the lush landscape, the glistening ocean and the warm breeze. One can easily imagine that, for a moment at least, the president gazed out across the rolling surf and considered how nice it would be to simply not go back to work.

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