Newspaper article International New York Times

Terror Fears Eclipse Obama's Triumphs

Newspaper article International New York Times

Terror Fears Eclipse Obama's Triumphs

Article excerpt

A year that included an Iran agreement, a climate accord, a Pacific trade pact and a budget deal is nearing an end with President Obama seeing almost no change in his job approval rating.

Determined to defy the stereotype of a weakened short-timer, President Obama is ending 2015 with a series of accomplishments, most notably a nuclear agreement with Iran, an international climate accord, a 12-nation Pacific trade pact and long-stalled deals on the budget, education and transportation.

But as he begins his final year in office, those achievements have been overshadowed by Americans' anxiety over terror attacks and the expanding battle with the Islamic State, along with a public perception that Mr. Obama is unable or unwilling to channel the nation's fears.

Mr. Obama has the lowest rating of his presidency for terrorism, with 37 percent approving of the way he has handled the issue, according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center. Fifty- seven percent disapprove, even as terrorism has catapulted to the top of the public's list of concerns. In a news conference at the White House on Friday before leaving for a two-week vacation, Mr. Obama tried for a fourth time in 14 days to reassure a nervous nation. He urged people to stay vigilant and to refuse to be terrorized by remaining united "as one American family."

"Squeezing ISIL's heart at its core in Syria and Iraq will make it harder for them to pump their terror and propaganda to the rest of the world," Mr. Obama said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State. He added that "our counterterrorism, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement communities are working 24/7 to protect our homeland."

Hours later, as Mr. Obama and his family headed to Hawaii, he made a stopover in San Bernardino, Calif., where he and the first lady, Michelle Obama, met with family members of those killed in the Dec. 2 shootings, and many of the emergency responders.

"You had people from every background, every faith; some described their loved ones who had come to this country as immigrants, others who had lived in the area all of their lives," Mr. Obama told reporters after meeting with the families in a library at Indian Springs High School, saying their diversity was "so representative of this country."

"As difficult as this time is for them and for the entire community," he added, "they're also representative of the strength and the unity and the love that exists in this community and in this country."

In the case of the San Bernardino massacre, the president has had to calibrate his response even more carefully, sounding familiar themes about the importance of gun control but also speaking to Americans' fears about the threat of homegrown terrorism.

"Even as we are vigilant about preventing terrorist attacks from happening, even as we insist that we can't accept the notion of mass shootings in public places and places of work and worship, we have to remind ourselves of the overwhelming good that exists out there," Mr. …

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