“The president laid out his agenda in his victory speech, when he talked about priorities like continuing the economic recovery, avoiding the fiscal cliff, and getting people back to work; so he made it clear he’ll be investing his political capital in those kinds of domestic battles,” says Mark Siegel, a former deputy assistant to the president in the Carter White House who is now a partner at Locke Lord Strategies in Washington.
“I just don’t see him pushing any new initiative in terms of Middle East peace, not right away,” he adds. “And he certainly won’t be launching any kind of military involvement in Syria or Iran.”
Some presidents' second terms have had a sharper foreign policy tilt than their first, but the dense domestic agenda suggests that Obama’s case could be the reverse, at least initially. Obama launched an ambitious Middle East initiative his first week in office, and delivered a series of big-themed speeches in foreign capitals in his first six months.
The out-of-the-blocks domestic focus, coupled with the departure of at least one top cabinet member handling foreign policy, means Obama will need to put in place in relatively short order a foreign-policy and national security team that he can rely on.
That team is expected to have some big shoes to fill.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has long said she would step down at the end of Obama’s first term, although recently she has said she would be willing to stay on board – perhaps for a couple of months – until a replacement is confirmed.