President Obama is now back at the White House, but as he even discovered on his vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, events — especially international ones — are still dictating his presidency. In fact, that’s largely been the story of his second term. The New York Times’ Michael Shear noted that Obama spent 15 days on his vacation, delivered three presidential statements, played nine rounds of golf, took two hikes, had three dinners out, and even partied with Hillary Clinton one night. (And that doesn’t include what he did during his 48 hours in Washington.) But consider all of the events that happened during that time. The increasing military campaign against ISIS. The domestic violence and unrest in Ferguson, MO. And the grisly murder of American journalist James Foley. All of these events and others (think Eastern Ukraine, the unaccompanied minors flocking to the U.S. border, the Israel-Hamas conflict) have contributed in sending President Obama’s approval rating to the low 40s — a rough place for his party 71 days until the midterm elections. The irony here, of course, is that the U.S. economy is now in the strongest position it’s been in during Obama’s time in office. And health care doesn’t pack the punch it did six months ago. But it’s other events controlling his presidency rather than Obama controlling events. The president has no public events on his schedule, but he meets at the White House with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at 11:15 am ET, and then chats with senior advisers at 3:30 pm.

When and how the U.S. pursues military action against ISIS in Syria

Regarding the increasing military campaign against ISIS, the question isn’t IF the United States will take against the Islamic militants in Syria; instead it’s HOW and WHEN. As we learned from that unsuccessful attempt to free James Foley another captured Americans, the U.S. military isn’t afraid of going into Syria. But it needs a legal basis for activity. Does it get that through Congress? Through permission from Assad (how ironic that would be!)? If ISIS is targeted in Syria, we won’t know until after the fact. The White House will not put the president out before the strikes occur; it will put him out after the strikes have happened to explain the justification. In addition, the White House will need some congressional authorization at some point if only to PAY for the operations in Iraq — that could come under the radar as an amendment to the Continuing Resolution (remember, Congress has to approve a budget by Oct. 1)… it’s basically the ONLY THING Congress HAS to do when it returns for its few weeks of work before the final election push.

Read more: Obama’s Second Term Dictated by Crises

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