President Obama's To Do List Before He Leaves Office
There are a lot of actions President Obama could take during his remaining time in office that many would appreciate.
Some of these things people are hoping for are fairly realistic, some are not.
For example, yes, it's probably time for the US to legalize marijuana at the federal level and there are undoubtedly a few people with their fingers crossed, hoping the president will do this before he waves farewell.
Sorry, but this is not likely.
But that doesn't mean he's just going to sit around and do nothing.
He's already proven he intends to make the most of his final days.
On Thursday, December 22, he took a decisive action that will make it much harder for Donald Trump to establish a Muslim registry.
President Obama also took a major step to protect the environment on December 20 by issuing a permanent ban on offshore oil and gas drilling across a significant portion of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.
These were practical moves that were within his power and weren't outright examples of overreach.
With that said, it would be nice to see the president step up and address a few other matters that are still up in the air.
Here's a Christmas wish list of things for President Obama to accomplish before he leaves office.
1. Close Guantanamo Bay detention camp
Guantanamo Bay detention camp (Gitmo) is a black mark on the history of the US. It's linked to some of the most abhorrent things this country has done in the past 20 years or so, including torture.
President Obama promised to close Gitmo when he came into office, but he's failed to deliver.
There are 59 detainees currently being held at Gitmo, 22 of whom have been recommended for transfer. The remaining 27 are being held indefinitely and have not been recommended for transfer.
The president is currently trying to transfer 17 or 18 of the remaining detainees. If he's successful, there will only be 41 or 42 detainees remaining.
But this is hardly what he initially set out to accomplish.
President Obama's soon-to-be successor, Donald Trump, has signified a desire to keep Gitmo open.
If the president decided to close Gitmo outright, it could result in Republicans in Congress filing a lawsuit.
So, at the very least, the Obama administration could issue a legal memo that outlines why future presidents have the authority to shut Gitmo down.
This way, if Trump suddenly changes his mind on this matter, he'd have something to fall back on.
2. Pardon Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden, the former NSA-contractor-turned-whistleblower, is a controversial figure.
Some say he's a patriot, others view him as a traitor.
But there's a strong case to be made Snowden should be pardoned.
What Snowden did was illegal.
But what he uncovered was also illegal, and he arguably acted in the interests of the American people, which is something even former Attorney General Eric Holder attested to.
Back in May, Holder said,
We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made.
While Holder did continue to argue Snowden should be punished, it's difficult to disagree with him on the "public service" Snowden performed.
President Obama has signified he will not pardon Snowden, but it's not unfair to ask him to reconsider.
Along these lines, perhaps the president could also commute or reduce the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who disclosed secret diplomatic and military documents to Wikileaks.
3. Remind people of the importance and power of hope
Hope is a powerful sentiment.
It's what helped drive President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. But, eight years later, it feels like a foreign concept.
America is very pessimistic right now. There is a great deal of uncertainty that hangs over the country.
Much of this has to do with Trump, given a recent poll showed a majority of Americans (54 percent) feel uncertain or pessimistic and worried about how he will be as president.
But there is definitely something bigger going on here that extends beyond apprehension about Trump and discontentment over the 2016 election.
This country has lost a sense of who and what it is.
We desperately need a reminder.
Before he leaves office, the president should remind Americans of not just what he's accomplished, as leaders often do, but what they've accomplished as a people.
We need to get our groove back, and find that sense of unapologetic optimism that has driven this country forward, in spite of its many flaws.
In short, we need hope.
President Obama is a skilled orator. His speeches have inspired millions of people.
We need his farewell speech to be the most powerful of his tenure.
In the process, we might begin to come together and move forward in a way that truly benefits all Americans.