As the president decided to hold off on a military strike in Syria while Secretary of State John Kerry works with his counterpart in Russia to devise a plan to rid the regime of its chemical weapons, the president attempted to revitalize discussion of his domestic agenda.
"Even as we have been spending a lot of time on the Syria issue ... it is still important to recognize that we've got a lot more stuff to do here in this government," Obama said during a meeting with his Cabinet on Thursday.
Economist Mark Zandi said that, all things considered, the president has been fairly successful on the domestic front.
"It has been a tough road, but I think he did a pretty good job," said Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.
But economist Baker offered a more critical perspective, saying the president hasn't shown a willingness to push an economic agenda.
"Let's say Syria didn't happen. What would he be doing right now? I am not sure he has some agenda that is being obstructed by events in the world," he said.
Syria aside, much of the White House's attention this fall will be spent on getting Americans to sign up for the health insurance exchanges, the heart of the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment begins October 1, and the administration is expected to spend $8.7 million on a media blitz to promote the exchanges.
Second term, second chance
After his re-election, the president hoped to reset his economic agenda. In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama said he will work to "reignite the true engine of America's economic growth: a rising, thriving middle class."
This summer, he launched a campaign to revive his focus on the economy.
In a series of speeches this year, he acknowledged the troubling economic indicators that are keeping the economy from a full recovery, including income inequality and employment disparities.
Americans' real median household income fell from $63,000 to $55,600 between 2000 and 2011, and as of December, 9.1 million jobs were necessary to restore the job market to pre-recession levels, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
"Reversing these trends has to be Washington's highest priority. It has to be Washington's highest priority. It's certainly my highest priority," Obama said in Galesburg, Illinois, in July.
Job creation, affordable education and home ownership were central to his proposals. Those initiatives included expanding development of renewable energy, creating new power grids and expanding access to early childhood education.
But what has the president done since that July speech? Some say, not much.
"Nothing has happened on any front," economist Zandi said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney pushed back, arguing that the president is still focused on those economic priorities.
"The president remains committed to pushing forward on an economic agenda that creates a better bargain for the middle class," Carney said Wednesday.
As new threats of a government shutdown over government funding and the debt ceiling loom, the president confronted the issue Monday.
"I can''t remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it doesn't get 100% of what it wants," the president said, blaming the Republicans for potential "massive economic turmoil."
With ongoing political stalemates and a protracted fight over the budget and debt ceiling, Zandi said immigration reform, which would be a major catalyst for economic growth, appears to be heading nowhere in the House. And tax and entitlement reform, which would also help to stimulate the economy, have no chance of happening this year.
There's always next year. But 2014 is an election year, which creates an even more difficult environment for passing legislation. After that, the president is in his final two years of office, and the political machine begins shaping the next occupant of the Oval Office.
Then, by definition, it can be hard for a lame duck president to get much done.