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The Legacy of Barack Obama. Aired 9-11a ET

Aired December 25, 2016 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN Special Report.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Barack Obama's America was born with hope --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were crying in the streets.

ZAKARIA: -- and with crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fragile financial system.

ZAKARIA: Financial panic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were hanging on the edge of a cliff.

ZAKARIA: Health care hysteria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't they take the health care being forced down our throats?

ZAKARIA: Two wars. Mass shootings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A gunman opens fire --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A spray of bullets.

ZAKARIA: Racial violence.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.


ZAKARIA: But Barack Obama made some big bets that paid off. Troops came home. Gays got married.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Americans lived up to her promise of liberty and justice for all.

ZAKARIA: Enemies were vanquished.

OBAMA: Justice has been done.

ZAKARIA: Millions got health care.

OBAMA: Amazing grace -- ZAKARIA: And sometimes tragedy gave birth to hope.

VAN JONES, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER ON ENVIRONMENT: And that was a profoundly important moment.

ZAKARIA: But as a new era begins --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Your moment of liberation is at hand.

ZAKARIA: What will remain?

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: The President just smiled and said, I'm a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama and I'm president of the United States. And I feel lucky every day.

ZAKARIA: What is the legacy of Barack Obama?

He may be the most improbable president in American history. In 2003, he was a state senator from Illinois.

OBAMA: The intent of this bill is to make sure --

ZAKARIA: An unknown African-American politician named Barack Hussein Obama. He made a big bet that he could be elected to the White House. Five years later, he was.

OBAMA: To preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.

ZAKARIA: He entered on a wave of hope and promise. He leaves office with robust approval ratings that place him in a small club. Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. But by the end of his presidency, the country was consumed by a wave of protest so strong that it had dashed the prospects of disputed of successor, Hillary Clinton and elected to the White House, his polar opposite.

TRUMP: Make America great again.

ZAKARIA: A man who promised to erase the Obama presidency. How did it happen? To understand that, we have to ask what is the legacy of Barack Obama.

The late publisher of "The Washington Post", Philip Graham, once said that journalism is the first rough draft of history. That's what we have tried to put together here. We will show you that love him or hate him there is little doubt that Obama has been one of the most consequential presidents in America history.

Notice, I didn't say successful. Time alone can make that judgment. But Obama sought to affect broad transforming changes in America. He used his power to make some very big bets. What happens to that legacy if those bets are now undone?

Race in America is in the eye of the beholder. We call Barack Obama our first African-American president because of the color of his skin. But in truth, he is, of course, biracial, born of an African father and a white mother from Kansas.

The first line of your biography will almost certainly be not something you did but who you are --

OBAMA: Right.

ZAKARIA: -- the first African-American president. And yet you're half white. You were raised by three white people, your mother, and your two grandparents.

OBAMA: Right. And an Indonesian.

ZAKARIA: And an Indonesian. Are you comfortable with this characterization of you?

OBAMA: I am, actually. And the concept of race in America is not just genetic otherwise the one drop rule wouldn't have made sense of this. It's cultural. It's -- this notion of people who look different than the mainstream suffering terrible oppression but somehow being able to make out of that, a music, and a language, and a faith, and a patriotism.

[09:05:03] Being black meant only the knowledge of your own powerlessness and your own defeat.

ZAKARIA: Barack Obama once felt quite differently about race.

OBAMA: And the final iron. Should you refuse this defeat and lash out at your captors, they would have a name for that too, a name that could cage you just as good like paranoid, or militant, or violent, or nigger.

ZAKARIA: At a reading from his first book, "Dreams from My Father", he told a painful story from his childhood when his grandmother expressed fear of a man at her bus stop, his grandfather became very angry.

OBAMA: She has been bothered by men before. You know why she is so scared this time? I'll tell you why. Before you came in, she told me the fellow was black.

The earth shook under my feet, ready to crack open at any moment. I stopped, trying to steady myself and knew for the first time that I was utterly alone.

ZAKARIA: The poet, William Wadsworth wrote, "The child is the father of the man." So, how to reconcile this troubled boy with the man who grew up to be president.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: The fact that his mother was white from Kansas, his daddy was an African from Kenya, he brings together the unimaginable paradoxical opposites in American society and in one body unites them. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Having this unclear understanding of where he fit into the American story, I think he somehow was able to tell himself that he might be able to be a person who could bring people together. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama, 47 years old, will become the president-elect of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A seismic shift in American politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is truly an incredible moment of American history.

ZAKARIA: November 4th, 2008, a joyous, historic moment.

OBAMA: Because of what we did o this stage, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

VONES: You saw what happened. I mean people were crying in the streets. There were people who were crying in the streets who did not vote for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea that a black family would occupy the White House.

RANDALL KENNEDY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: There was a reason why people were saying that over and over.

OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear --

ZAKARIA: Nearly 2 million people packed into Washington for the inaugural.

OBAMA: To preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.


OBAMA: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. President.

KENNEDY: To look from the Capitol down towards the Washington monument and to see just this sea of faces and people had American flags, it was just absolutely something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.

ZAKARIA: That night, Barack and Michelle Obama danced to a song sung by Beyonce. The title told the story.

BEYONCE, SINGER: At last my love has come along --

ZAKARIA: It seemed like a fairy tale beginning but at precisely the moment the first couple began swaying on the dance floor, the central crisis of the Obama presidency was already taking shape. RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: Within half a mile of where Obama and Michelle are dancing and celebrating their great victory, his Republican opponents are whining and dining and plotting his defeat.

ZAKARIA: Fifteen of the most powerful Republicans in Washington made a pact that night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of that meeting, they decide that the only way to win back power is to oppose Obama at every level.

ZAKARIA: That fierce, unrelenting opposition would haunt the next eight years and what began as whispers is now discussed openly.

Did race play a role in the brick wall of Republican resistance to Barack Obama?

[09:10:00] AXELROD: It's undisputable that there was a ferocity to the opposition and a lack of respect to him that was a function of race.

VONES: I can't name one thing that this Congress supported this president on in eight years.

You have to have an extraordinary explanation for this level of obstruction.

ZAKARIA: David Axelrod says, at least one powerful Republican was personally disrespectful to Obama.

AXELROD: Said to him, you know, we don't really think you should be here but the American people thought otherwise. So we're going to have to work with you.

ZAKARIA: Republicans have strongly rejected charges that race played a role in their opposition.

MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: I, like a lot of Americans, concerned and disagree with the president's policies and approaches from the stimulus spending to this health care strategy. Am I racist because I disagree with that? I don't think so.

OBAMA: There are people who dislike me because they think I'm a liberal.

ZAKARIA: The President doesn't see racism in mainstream opposition to him but he does see it on the fringes.

OBAMA: I think there is a reason why attitudes about my presidency among whites in northern states are very different from whites in southern states. So, you know, are there folks who -- whose primary concern about me has been that I seen foreign, the other? Are those who champion the birther movement, you know, feeding off of bias, absolutely.

TRUMP: The fact is if he wasn't born in this country, he shouldn't be the president of the United States. ZAKARIA: The loudest voice in the birther movement has of course now been elected president.

TRUMP: Why doesn't he give his birth certificate? He says he has a birth certificate. So, either they don't have one, which is very bad, or there is something going that he doesn't want people to see.

AXELROD: The birther movement has roots in racism. There's no question about it.

TRUMP: I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they're finding.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC'S TODAY HOST: You have people now out there searching -- I mean, in Hawaii.

TRUMP: Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they're finding.

If he wasn't born in this country, then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics.

ZAKARIA: They found nothing. And the White House released Obama's long form birth certificate. Finally, the President had his say.

OBAMA: No one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like did we fake the moon landing? And where are Biggie and Tupac?

AXELROD: Large numbers of people could accept or believe it.

ZAKARIA: The first racial controversy to rock the Obama presidency came in July of 2009.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A professor at Harvard University tried to get in his own home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he wound up under arrest.

ZAKARIA: Henry Lewis Gates, a friend of Obamas, had been trying to open his own front door.

OBAMA: I don't know not having been there and not seeing all the facts what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry. Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly.

JONES: The pres of the United States says what anybody in Washington would say. It was stupid to arrest one of the most famous professors in the world in their house for being in their house.

ZAKARIA: There was a very different response on the right.

BECK: This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don't know what it is. This guy is, I believe, a racist. KENNEDY: He didn't say anything about the race of the police officer, about the race of the professor.

ZAKARIA: Obama apologized.

OBAMA: I could have calibrated those words differently.

ZAKARIA: He invited the police officer to the White House for a beer.

JONES: Black moral witness falls silent because if the President can't talk about this without being sent to the woodshed, to be on equal basis with some random cop, it's over.

ZAKARIA: The timing of the Gates arrest is important. It was the first time Obama had addressed a racial controversy as president. But it was also at the height of his health care fight. Rage over Obamacare was turning to race.

[09:15:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Afrolenonism coming to you on a silver platter, Barack Hussein Obama.

ZAKARIA: All of it led to several years in which the President avoided the topic of race.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Hey, can I get an officer to 1960 Retreat View Circle?



ZAKARIA: The violent death of one teenage boy in Florida put race back front and center. Trayvon Martin was on his way home from buying candy when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

GERALDO RIVERA, NEWS ANCHOR: Zimmerman is not a racist. Trayvon Martin would be alive today if he wasn't wearing thug wear, if he wasn't wearing that hoodie.

ZAKARIA: The President's response was personal.

OBAMA: When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. You know, if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.

ZAKARIA: Within months, case after case began to make headlines.

ZAKARIA: Young black men dying at the hands of law enforcement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't shoot him. Don't shoot him.

ZAKARIA: The details were often disputed. But the rage was clear.

African-Americans did battle with the police. And a new civil rights group, Black Lives Matter, quickly grew in number. Some in the African-American community turned their rage on Barack Obama. TAVIS SMILEY, LIBERAL POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Stop telling black folk they got to wait and that these things take time. We can't wait, number one. Number two, Mr. President, respectfully, when you're saying we can't compare what's happening now to what happened 50 years ago, tell that to the parents of these kids who are being gunned down in America's streets. It is open season.

ZAKARIA: The President faced an impossible challenge, to be black enough to satisfy African-Americans yet post-racial enough to reassure many whites.

AXELROD: He never ran to be the first black president. He ran to be president of the United States and he happens to be black. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But wait a minute, you may not be the president of black America but you are the president of black Americans.

AXELROD: He needed to become a force for healing and finding the right way to do that was something that he wrestled with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A brand new "New York Times" poll finds that 69 percent of Americans say that race relations are bad. The highest level that since the Rodney King riots back in 1992.

ZAKARIA: Relations between blacks and whites were at their worst point in a generation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do want a black man to die, you send the police to kill him.

ZAKARIA: The whole country was wrestling with race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they don't do something, they're the bad guys. If they try to do something, they're the bad guy. So, what are they supposed to do?

JONES: These sort of suppressed racial feelings and these suppressed racial resentments actually rather than being quelled by Obama's rise were actually unleashed by Obama's rise.

ZAKARIA: But no single moment in the Obama presidency was at once so ugly and unifying as the Charleston church shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The killing is being investigated as a hate crime now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, you are raping our women. You are taking over our country. I have to do what I have to do.

ZAKARIA: Nine people murdered. The gunman said he wanted to start a race war. When President Obama came to the Emanuel AME Church, his hesitance to speak frankly on race was gone.

OBAMA: For too long, we have been blind to the way past injustices continue to shake the present. We now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don't realize it. Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. God has different ideas.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

[09:20:04] JONES: And when he sang "Amazing Grace", you know, there was a medicine in that song for 400 years of funeral after funeral, there's a alleluia anyhow, no matter what you do to me. He channeled that as the president. And that was a profoundly important moment, you know.

And to me, that's the capstone. That's the capstone. That's this man not just rediscovering who he is but rediscovering who this country is.

OBAMA: May God continue to shed his grace on the United States of America.

ZAKARIA: When we come back --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The banking system remains in deep trouble, the worst showing ever on an inaugural day.

ZAKARIA: The first day, a day from hell.

AXELROD: We could have a second Great Depression.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nearly 1.2 million jobs have disappeared.


ZAKARIA: Welcome to the White House.

OBAMA: Maybe because I was too new to panic.


ZAKARIA: Day one, the new president bows his head in prayer. He needed all the help he could get. He had been briefed. He was facing the worst economic crisis in decades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fragile financial system.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Likely to get worse before it gets better.

AXELROD: Larry Summers said, we're going to lose millions more jobs and we could have a second Great Depression.

Tim Geithner said the financial system is locked up and it might collapse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: U.S. banking system remains in deep trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were hanging on the edge of a cliff. And in fact, we were starting down that down into the abyss.

GEITHNER: A stunningly scary moment. ZAKARIA: There was plenty of panic to go around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the troubled economy offering a harsh greeting to the new president, worst showing ever on an inaugural day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tough to stay positive when you have been kind of getting clubbed to death.

ZAKARIA: Markets were collapsing. Major banks were failing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm definitely going to pull my money out.

ZAKARIA: More than 100,000 Americans were losing their homes every week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doing a serving an eviction on you. You have to take off in about 15 minutes.

ZAKARIA: And the worst effect, soaring unemployment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 2008, nearly 1.2 million jobs had disappeared.

ZAKARIA: And still climbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were scared.

GEITHNER: It was really getting worse. And we had already, as a country, done just a massive amount of things.

RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER WH CHIEF OF STAFF: Where do you start? Which one of these piles of things that you want to start with?

GEITHNER: We had this big debate about what to do.

ZAKARIA: It's your first day on the job and the world economy is collapsing.

Did you ever think to yourself this is going to derail my country, my plan, my presidency?

[09:25:06] OBAMA: Maybe because I was too new to panic. I was very confident that we could get to the right answer.

ZAKARIA: Obama decides to go big. A stimulus bill that would bump $800 billion into the economy. Tax cuts, money to save the jobs of cops and teachers and the rebuilding of roads and bridges.

OBAMA: At this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe.

ZAKARIA: Republicans hated it. They said it was too rushed and hopelessly complex. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: I don't know how you could read 1,100 pages between midnight and now. Not one member has read this. What happened to the promise that we're going to let the American people see what's in this bill for 48 hours? But Nope, we don't have time to do that.

AXELROD: The decision said he was making to save the economy were all politically toxic. He had no allusions about that.

ZAKARIA: Still, Obama thought he could pry loose some Republican votes instead of the usual step of inviting them to the White House, he went to Capitol Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very dramatic gesture on the part of the President, as you know.

ZAKARIA: To talk to Republicans on their turf.

OBAMA: Hello, everybody. ZAKARIA: It did not go well.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I could not find anybody who said, at least, in the House that they would vote yes tomorrow.

OBAMA: We had a wonderful exchange of ideas.

ZAKARIA: Not so much as it turned out. The Republicans had made up their minds before Obama even arrived.

OBAMA: On my trip up to the Hill, they released an e-mail saying we're going to be voting against it before they had even heard our presentation.

ZAKARIA: The stimulus passed without a single vote from a House Republican.

AXELROD: They were making political decisions and we were trying to save the country from a disaster.

ZAKARIA: This was, in fact, a crucial moment in the history of the Obama presidency. It was only the President's second month in office. The financial crisis was about to get even scarier. And yet, it was already clear. Republicans would hold firm to the vow they made as he entered the White House.

EMANUEL: Mitch McConnell says what his strategy is. They told you the strategy. It's not like you have to interpret it. They're overt about it.

VALERIE JARRETT, SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Their desire to stop him was also going to have devastating consequences for the American people and why? Was it race? Was it the politics? Was it power?

ZAKARIA: But Obama was not blameless. Republicans say he would not accept any of their ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No engagement in any way, shape, or form.

GEITHNER: They found him unappealing in many ways.

ZAKARIA: The Republicans had a favorite word to describe the President and his policies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really arrogant, if you will.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I do think Barack Obama is arrogant.

ZAKARIA: But now Obama had to go it alone and he was facing a new crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More troubles for G.M. and its workers.

ZAKARIA: America's iconic car company, General Motors, was in a death spiral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With General Motors right now, I think we're all afraid.

EMANUEL: They were talking about two weeks and bust. It was not two years. It was not we have a problem here. We think we can keep it alive for two weeks.


ZAKARIA: Chrysler was collapsing as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody is here for one common cause. We want to keep our jobs.

ZAKARIA: There were layoffs, plant closings.

OBAMA: We cannot and must not and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish.

ZAKARIA: Polls showed almost two thirds of the American people opposed bailing out the car company.

Mitt Romney, whose father ran a car company, wrote an op-ed, "Let them go bankrupt." But Barack Obama decided to go all in.

OBAMA: Our government will be making a significant additional investment of about $30 billion in G.M.

ZAKARIA: The massive loan effectively made the U.S. government the owner of General Motors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We own a car company.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very scary. MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.

ZAKARIA: But even d the auto bailout did not spark as much rage as bank bonuses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multibillion dollar bonuses despite getting billions of your taxpayer bailout dollars.

[09:30:01] ZAKARIA: That's right. Millions in bonuses were being paid to the very same bankers who many thought had almost destroyed the world economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me feel disgusted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me angry, certainly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're a CEO of a company like that, you shouldn't be able to drive a limo, you should ride your -- on the subway like everybody else does.

ZAKARIA: The anger came from all directions. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened with these bonuses was a mugging on Wall Street.

ZAKARIA: Those bonuses were contractual obligations but the administration understood that the optics were awful.

OBAMA: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of, you know, fat cat bankers on Wall Street.

GEITHNER: It looks like you were giving money to the arsonists and they were going to profit while the country burned.

ZAKARIA: Then American anger over all of it seemed to find a voice.

RICK SANTELLI, CNBC BUSINESS NEWS: The government is promoting bad behavior.

ZAKARIA: On the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, a CNBC reporter named Rick Santelli went on an epic rant about bailouts.

SANTELLI: This is America. How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills. Raise their hand.

President Obama, are you listening? We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I'm going to start organizing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you dumping in this time?

WILBUR ROSS: Mayor Daley is marshalling the police right now.

ZAKARIA: It was the moment that Tea Party movement was born. In the end, the banks were stabilized and credit began flowing to mainstream. The taxpayers got all their money back with interest from those bets.

GEITHNER: And we saved the country from a failing financial system but we lost the country doing it.

ZAKARIA: And they lost big even though Obama's emergency rescue succeeded, the appearance that he was helping Wall Street rather than ordinary Americans, that would prove very expensive. It cost him mountains of his political capital just when he needed it.

He was headed into a gathering storm that would threaten the one thing he wanted most. That story later in the program. But, first, how the president who brought down Bin Laden let the next big terror threat rise up and take over land Americans had died for.

Let me ask you if it's possible in your position to be completely honest and say the rise of the Islamic State surprised you?

The ISIS story, next.


OBAMA: Hello, everybody.

ZAKARIA: December 14th, 2011 was a great day for Barack Obama. It was the day he proudly announced that the troops were home from Iraq.

OBAMA: Welcome home.

[09:34:58] ZAKARIA: A campaign promise fulfilled just in time for his re-election bid. But had the President taken his victory lap too early? Three years later, chaos had descended on Iraq, cities that Americans had bled for. Mosul.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ISIS now controls Western Iraq --

ZAKARIA: Ramadi Fallujah had been lost again to a deadly new terror group, ISIS.

Let me ask you if it's possible in your position to be completely honest and say the rise of the Islamic State surprised you? It took you by surprise, it took the administration by surprise.

OBAMA: The ability of ISIL to initiate major land offensives, that was not on my intelligence radar screen.

ZAKARIA: Everyone was stunned that a few thousand militants swept through Iraq and Syria sewing fear in the region and the war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We chop off the heads of the Americans, chop off the heads of the French, chop off the heads of whoever you may bring.

ZAKARIA: They created a caliphate ruled by strict Sharia law meeting out punishments in the most barbaric ways imaginable. Their philosophy may have been medieval but they were masters of the Internet. They took thousands of recruits from Malaysia, to Belgium to New Jersey. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ISIS claiming responsibility for the horrific attack --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A large truck careens through crowds of tourists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bullets fired into a cafe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They killed at least 30 people in Belgium.

ZAKARIA: Soon, they would mount some of the deadliest terror attacks since 9/11. Casting a large shadow over Obama's presidency and an even larger one over the presidential election.

TRUMP: The way they got out of Iraq, the vacuum they've left, that's why ISIS formed in the first place and now they're in 32 different nations, Hillary. Congratulations, great job.

ZAKARIA: So, could President Obama have prevented the rise of the Islamic State? His critics point to a pivotal decision, leaving Iraq with just a handful of troops. His generals had wanted thousands more.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET), CIA DIRECTOR, 2011-2012: I don't know whether 10,000 troops would have given us the leverage. I actually suspect it might not have but I would have liked to have tested the proposition.

ZAKARIA: But there was a problem. His predecessor, President Bush, had signed an agreement with the Iraqis promising that all troops would be gone by the end of 2011.

OBAMA: The only way in which we were going to keep troops there was at the invitation of that government. And we couldn't get that done.

We've spent a considerable amount of time talking about Syria.

ZAKARIA: That government was run by this man, Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki. He didn't get a new agreement to prove by his parliament. Worried he would lose his political support, perhaps the most crucial, Maliki, a hard hard-line Shiite had mounted a violent crack down against Sunni Muslims throughout the country. As a result, many of them had turned in desperation and defines to ISIS, which is hard line Sunni and deeply anti-Shiite.

Meanwhile, another crucial decision faced the President. How to handle the growing crisis in neighboring Syria, where Jihadis were showing up to battle the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

ROBERT FORD, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: WE had reports coming from Iraq that some of the fighters in al-Qaeda in Iraq had moved to Syria.

ZAKARIA: Robert Ford, then the U.S. ambassador to Syria, witnessed the turmoil firsthand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two car bombings blamed on suicide attack -- ZAKARIA: Al-Qaeda in Iraq --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The remains of the dead were scattered.

ZAKARIA: -- the group that morphed into ISIS --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wounded were carried away in blankets.

ZAKARIA: -- was suspected of masterminding a car bombing of serious state security officers.

[09:39:58] FORD: One car goes in and blows up, take down the outer defense. Then a second car goes in to detonate.

ZAKARIA: The criminal attack carries the blueprints of al-Qaeda.

FORD: This is a hallmark tactic of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

ZAKARIA: Back in Washington, Ambassador Ford met with David Petraeus, who was then the head of the CIA. The extremists in Syria were getting stronger, he said. While the moderate rebels fighting Assad were getting weaker.

FORD: You do nothing, extremists will continue to gain ground. That's what our Syrian contacts were telling us. This isn't rocket science.

ZAKARIA: Petraeus urged the White House to arm the moderates. PETRAEUS: Recommendations were made to assist some of the opposition. Elements and that obviously a decision was not forthcoming to do that for quite a very long time.

ZAKARIA: The President was skeptical. He saw the Syrian civil war as a quagmire in which the moderates were too few, too weak and too disorganized to prevail.

OBAMA: I think this notion that somehow there was this readymade, moderate Syrian force that was able to defeat Assad is simply not true.

Jay tells me that you guys have been missing me.

ZAKARIA: Then in August, 2012, at a routine press conference Obama appeared suddenly willing to use force against Assad.

OBAMA: A red line for us is we start saying seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.

ZAKARIA: That red line was crossed one year later. A horrific sarin gas attack in a Damascus suburb left hundreds dead, including many children. The President ordered the military to get ready for a strike. An attack was imminent.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The drums of war growing louder. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: U.S. will punish Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Obama administration --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Says there must be a response.

ZAKARIA: But the President who wanted to end America's wars in the Middle East was having second thoughts about starting a new one.

He proposed what some saw as a delaying tactic, seek permission to fight from Congress. Some of his staff worried it was a mistake. But Obama stood his ground, convinced that the American public was as weary of war as he was.

ZAKARIA: If one were to look at your statements on Syria from the start, the red line, and then your decision at the very last minute not to use military force, wouldn't it be fair for critics to say this shows inconsistency, perhaps it shows your own ambivalence and yet you have seen it as one of your best moments.

OBAMA: Ambivalence, absolutely, because it's hard with respect to my red line. We, in fact, positioned our military to be able to strike Assad if he did not give up his chemical weapons. And the fact is he got rid of his chemical weapons in an unprecedented way.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments.

ZAKARIA: Assad's allies in the Kremlin had brokered a deal that forced him to give up his chemical weapon stockpile. Within a year, Syria's declared materials were removed without a shot being fired. But the Syrian civil war continued and extremists gained the upper hand.

FORD: When you have these ungoverned spaces, that's exactly where extremists like to go to set up. They can plan, they can organize, they can recruit, they can do training, that's what they need.

ZAKARIA: In 2013, ISIS took over Raqqa, a major city in Syria. Then they marched into Iraq capturing vast swaths of territory. They had effectively created their own nation, an Islamic State.

Over the last two years, ISIS has been badly squeezed. But the group could still strike any time in the Middle East, Europe or America. And Syria is still in chaos.

PETRAEUS: This country and this region, in fact, does not play by Las Vegas rules. What happens in Syria doesn't stay in Syria. It spews violence and instability and extremism and ultimately a tsunami of refugees into the countries of our European allies and partners.

[09:45:08] FORD: There was a time and there was a way to help moderates in the opposition prevail. Absolutely, we missed an opportunity.

ZAKARIA: Do you think it is an accomplishment of your presidency that you have substantially kept the United States out of the Syrian civil war militarily?

OBAMA: I think it is the smartest decision from a menu of bad options that were available to us. Have we been flawless in the execution of what is a complicated policy in the region? Absolutely not. I think flawless is not available when it comes to foreign policy or the presidency, at least, with mere mortals like me at the helm.

Have we made the best decisions that were available to us at each stage? The answer is yes.

ZAKARIA: Up next, the battle at home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 911, what's the location of your emergency?

ZAKARIA: With mass shootings.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun --

ZAKARIA: A president struggles --

LAPIERRE: -- is a good guy with a gun.

ZAKARIA: -- with an American horror story.

OBAMA: They had their entire lives ahead of them.

ZAKARIA: That story when we return.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 911, what's the location of your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I at Sandy Hook School, I think there's somebody shooting in here, Sandy Hook School. Oh, they're still running and still shooting.

ZAKARIA: Five minutes, that's how long it took for a deranged man with an assault rifle to end the lives of 20 first graders and six adults inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a horrific scene and we've never seen anything like this.

OBAMA: The majority of those who died today were children. Beautiful little kids between the ages of five and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.

[09:50:15] ZAKARIA: Barack Obama was haunted by the gun violence that pervades America, but gun control was the big bet he did not make.

OBAMA: If you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I've been most frustrated and most stymied, it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common sense gun safety laws. ZAKARIA: He failed to pass any firearms legislation. By the time it became a priority, he simply did not have the political capital.

GOODWIN: Well, I think a president has to figure out what priorities he's going to have a chance of getting through, like gun control, he might have felt if I go for that, then I may lose this because you're building up capital or you're losing capital.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEY YORK: Let's be honest here, there haven't been the votes in the Congress for gun control. Make no mistake about it.

ZAKARIA: The midterm election of 2010 had been a disaster for the Democrats.

OBAMA: Some election nights are more fun than others.

ZAKARIA: They lost the House and the Senate and with them, any chance of getting major legislation passed. Still, when it came to guns, Obama would finally find a way to act without Congress and make the first move on gun control in decades.

But now it could all easily be reversed. President-Elect Donald Trump has vowed that there will be no gun restrictions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A gunman opens fire --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A spray of bullets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has been a multiple shooting. ZAKARIA: It was early in Obama's presidency when an explosion of gun violence began to hit the headlines. Among the worst shootings, Tucson, Arizona.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six people are dead, 12 others wounded including Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

OBAMA: There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts.

ZAKARIA: Aurora, Colorado.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twelve people killed, 38 injured after a gunman opens fire in a movie theater.

OBAMA: I'd like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy.

ZAKARIA: The President was praised for his eulogies but pilloried for inaction.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Why President Obama? When you campaigned three years ago, you campaigned on a promise to try to enact legislation that would ban assault weapons. Again, what changed your mind, why did you not during the last three years do anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evil visited this community today.

ZAKARIA: It wasn't until Newtown that Obama finally acted. Public anger and his own resolve drove him to put his full weight behind gun control legislation.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: This is not the first issue, the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?

OBAMA: Well, here's where I've been, Jake. I've been president of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don't think I've been on vacation. And so, I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington.

ZAKARIA: The President took the unusual step of bringing Newtown parents in to actually work on the bill. The legislation broadened background checks to include gun shows and internet sales. Consider this, at that time, an astonishing 92 percent of the country, including an overwhelming majority of gun owners, supported background checks on all potential gun buyers.

MARK BARDEN, PARENT OF NEWTOWN VICTIM: We do think that would be an easy get because of the simplicity of it and because it wasn't anything new.

ZAKARIA: But the NRA fought hard.

LAPIERRE: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

ZAKARIA: And the NRA won. In April 2013, the bill came up five votes short.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amendment is not agreed to.

OBAMA: All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.

ZAKARIA: It was a defeat that the president took personally.

OBAMA: But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill.

[09:54:59] AXELROD: The failure to be able to do anything even in the face of that, even in the face of the slaughter of these innocent young kids was deeply depressing to him.

ZAKARIA: Barack Obama would have to address mass shootings again and again.

OBAMA: I've had to make statements like this too many times. No other advanced nation endures this kind of violence. This is becoming the norm. ZAKARIA: Finally, in January 2016, he announced he was bypassing Congress and taking executive action.

OBAMA: The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage.

ZAKARIA: The order expanded background checks and narrowed the gun show loophole.

OBAMA: First graders in Newtown, first graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun. Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: He now has decided he's just going to write laws on his own. He's going to give us edicts, as if he's a king. And that is a petulant child. He is refusing to listen to the will of the American people.

ZAKARIA: And now, even Obama's executive orders are at risk.

TRUMP: I will veto that. I will unsign that so fast, so fast.

ZAKARIA: President-elect Trump has said there will be no gun restrictions on his watch. It is likely that the bet President Obama did not make will remain off the table for years.

JARRETT: There's no one who's been to more memorial services and comforted more families than the president. And each time he looks at a family who look at him going, you know, why couldn't we have done more? Believe me, that's like a poker in his stomach so it eats away at him.

OBAMA: All the progress that we've made these last eight years goes out the window if we don't win this election.

ZAKARIA: In the final days of Barack Obama's presidency, he campaigned his heart out.

OBAMA: Hello, Miami.

ZAKARIA: One last time.

OBAMA: Donald Trump's closing argument is what do you have to lose? The answer's everything.

ZAKARIA: Obama reached for the themes that had driven him since his days as a community organizer. Equality and social justice.

OBAMA: I'm not on the ballot this time, but fairness is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Courtesy is on the ballot. Equality is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot.

ZAKARIA: Issues involving women, gays, minorities and immigrants were among those closest to his heart. But now they appear to be the Obama achievements that are at greatest risk. Donald Trump has vowed to undo much of Barack Obama's social agenda.

TRUMP: The change will begin my first day in office.

They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime.

Build that wall. Build that wall.

African-Americans, Hispanics are living in hell.

I'm pro-life. The judges will be pro-life.

ZAKARIA: It's that last item he mentioned, judges, that may have the most powerful effect in undoing the Obama legacy. Donald Trump has said he plans to put a hard line conservative on the Supreme Court, that would create a majority that could reverse almost all of Obama's programs. Obama thought that the Supreme Court could look more like America.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Obama names his first Supreme Court pick and history's first Latina.

ZAKARIA: He began with Sonia Sotomayor.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is this nation's faith in a more perfect union that allows a Puerto Rican girl from The Bronx to stand here now.

ZAKARIA: Then a year later, he nominated another woman, Elena Kagan.


ZAKARIA: For the first time in history, there were three women on the Supreme Court. OBAMA: I may be a little grayer than I was years ago, but this is what a feminist looks like.

[10:00:00] ZAKARIA: It was Obama's new high court that ushered in America's biggest social change in decades. June of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage was legal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amazing. It's incredible. We waited all these years. All these years and now we all get, all get marriage equality.


OBAMA: Today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painful, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible.


ZAKARIA: Obama knew the shift was possible because he had made it himself.


OBAMA: I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.



ZAKARIA: The most progressive president in a generation had dragged his feet on gay marriage. Advocates felt betrayed. Many suspected Obama's reluctance was a political decision, reflecting his sense of just how much change the country could digest.


ZAKARIA: Instead of pushing gay marriage, he had steadily but quietly made smaller strides. First, Obama signed a hate crime bill that protected gays.

Two years later, he repealed the don't ask/don't tell policy, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never been more proud to wear my uniform and represent this country than today.


ZAKARIA: It was not Obama, but Joe Biden, who forced the issue of gay marriage out of the political closet.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: As more and more Americans become to understand what this is all about as a simple proposition, who do you love? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love?


ZAKARIA: Days later, Obama followed and became the first president to support gay marriage.


OBAMA: It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.


ZAKARIA: It would be three more years before the Supreme Court made it a fundamental American right. And that is something Donald Trump seems to have no argument with.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT-ELECT: It was already settled. It's law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. It's done.


ZAKARIA: But a Trump court could well reverse that right as well as the now 43-year-old decision, Roe versus Wade. The high court's importance to the legacy of Barack Obama cannot be overstated.

After the death of Antonin Scalia, Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the seat but republicans refused even to consider him. So the court became a casualty of the harsh political divide that has dogged the Obama years.

An eight-person panel split evenly along ideological lines.

The issue that became the biggest victim of that split, immigration.


Unable to get any legislation through Congress, the president issued an executive order to keep millions of people from being deported. But when that order was argued before the Supreme Court, the eight justices divided along party lines, of course.


OBAMA: This is part of the consequence of the republican failure so far to get a fair hearing to Mr. Merrick Garland. My nominee to the Supreme Court.


ZAKARIA: As with guns, the executive order had become his only way to get things done.


OBAMA: And to those members of Congress who questioned my authority to make our immigration system work better, or questioned the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer. Pass a bill.


ZAKARIA: Near the end of his Presidency, Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, where his career began.

OBAMA: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: To reflect on his commitment to social justice.


OBAMA: There's always been a gap between our highest ideals and the reality that we witness every single day.

We have fought wars and passed laws and reformed systems and organized unions and staged protests and launched mighty movements to close that gap.


ZAKARIA: Springfield is where Obama first announced his run for the presidency.


OBAMA: I am ready to take up the cause and march with you and work with you.


ZAKARIA: And, of course, Springfield is the home of Obama's hero, Abraham Lincoln.


OBAMA: Because Lincoln made that decision not to give up, because of what he set in motion, generations of free men and women of all races and walks of life have had the chance to choose this country's course.

[10:05:00] What a great gift.



ZAKARIA: Barack Obama has always been known for his cool, calm and steely eyed in the face of adversity. His foreign policy in many ways has been no different. A disciplined approach to American power that avoided big, messy wars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just detonated by itself.

ZAKARIA: While training a laser-like focus on terror groups like Al Qaeda to deadly effect.


OBAMA: The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda.


ZAKARIA: And yet, the cool commander in chief of the last eight years presided over the collapse of Syria and the birth of ISIS, which gets us to a man with a much different temperament.


TRUMP: I would bomb the shit out of them.



ZAKARIA: How did one lead to the other? To understand why, you have to go back to the beginning of this story. Chicago, 2002.


OBAMA: When I look out over this crowd today, I know there is no shortage of patriots or patriotism.


ZAKARIA: A little known Illinois state senator spoke at a protest against the Bush administration's plans for a war in Iraq.


OBAMA: I don't oppose war in all circumstance. What I do oppose is a dumb war.


ZAKARIA: That speech in 2002 is why Barack Obama became President. Nine days later, Hillary Clinton and 76 other senators...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The joint resolution is passed.

ZAKARIA: ... voted to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein, this is your last chance. Disarm or be disarmed.


ZAKARIA: By 2008, the Iraq war was seen as America's worst foreign policy debacle since Vietnam.

[10:10:05] In the primary against Hillary Clinton...


OBAMA: I was opposed to Iraq from the start.


ZAKARIA: Senator Obama never let voters forget that he had been on the right side of history.


OBAMA: I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place. That's the kind of leadership I intend to provide as President of the United States.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton, that's a clear swipe at you.

CLINTON: Really?

OBAMA: I've come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.


ZAKARIA: Less than six weeks after he was inaugurated, he told the troops his plans for withdrawal.


OBAMA: I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.


God bless the United States of America. Semper fi.


ZAKARIA: President Obama not only wanted to get America out of Iraq.


ZAKARIA: He wanted America to learn from the war and rethink its role as a global superpower.


OBAMA: Thank you, guys.

We are the most powerful country in the world, but even a country this powerful has some limits and some constraints and we have to be judicious in the ways that we use that power.

This isn't an abstract proposition. We send 23-year-olds and they lose limbs and some don't come back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told you it's up here.


ZAKARIA: Obama also wanted to apply that logic in Afghanistan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, I'm about to find this bastard and I'm going to kill them all.




ZAKARIA: His generals wanted a large new surge of troops. But he insisted on something smaller.



DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He took on this idea that the commander in chief is not the commander in chief. That somehow the commander on the ground should be the person who gets everything he needs. As determined by him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do it. Do it. Do it.


ZAKARIA: And he demanded a deadline for when the troops would come home.


OBAMA: Our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open ended.


ZAKARIA: Consider this, in January 2009, there were 175,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. As of December 2016, there were around 15,000.

But Barack Obama was no peacenik. He had a dramatically different approach to war compared with his

predecessor. Instead of fighting terrorism with large armies, he would rely more than ever on a new technology. It would change the very nature of war. The armed drone.


MARK MAZZETTI, THE NEW YORK TIMES JOURNALIST: Never before in American history has an American president had the technology and the legal authority to hunt down any person anywhere on the face of the earth and kill him.


ZAKARIA: There was a surreal selection process that became known as the kill list.


MAZZETTI: They would have bios and pictures of these people. Something that came to be called the sort of baseball cards of terrorists and a decision was made to put them on the list or not put them on the list.


ZAKARIA: Carrying out the campaign of killing was the president's CIA Director, Leon Panetta. Obama gave him plenty of latitude. When Panetta wanted to dramatically expand the CIA's fleet of drones in Pakistan, the president over the objections of his staff told Panetta the CIA gets what it wants.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a U.S. drone that fire...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A U.S. drone strike killed...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believed to have taken out a notorious...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Al Qaeda's second in command has been killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Killed by a U.S. drone strike.


ZAKARIA: Drones got the job done.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reported drone strike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a major blow.


ZAKARIA: Al Qaeda's senior leadership was decimated.


MAZZETTI: The joke became that they once again killed the number three guy in Al Qaeda.


ZAKARIA: President Obama had become the drone president.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very controversial drone program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has been killed.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Killed in the drone attack.

ZAKARIA: Have you opened a Pandora's Box? People will use your precedent and say, well, the Americans under Obama did it, so we're going to use drones. And is that the new world we are likely to enter?

OBAMA: I recognize the danger of an antiseptic war from a distance that starts looking like a video game.


[10:15:04] ZAKARIA: It's a video game that is all too real.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The death toll now appears to be 15.

ZAKARIA: Many innocent lives have been taken by accident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nationwide rallies against U.S. drone attacks.


ZAKARIA: The president tightened the rules of engagement.


OBAMA: Our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute.


ZAKARIA: But drones continued to be an essential weapon in his arsenal.


OBAMA: There are bad guys out there, and one of your jobs as commander in chief is making sure that you keep the American people safe from those bad guys.


ZAKARIA: The most important bad guy on president Obama's list was Osama Bin Laden. The CIA believed it had him in its sights at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.


JOHN BRENNAN, U.S. CIA DIRECTOR: He has a very distinctive look, he's tall, lanky, and his gait is very deliberate. And so, it was something that had struck me that when I saw it, call it instinct or whatever, I said, yes, I think that's him.


ZAKARIA: But identifying him was by no means a slam dunk.


OBAMA: The odds that it was bin laden were probably 50/50.


ZAKARIA: Failure of the mission could easily have cost the president his job in 2012. But in the end, he decided to move forward.


OBAMA: And it was emblematic of presidential decision-making. You're always working with probabilities, and you make a decision not based on 100 percent certainty but with the best information that you've got.


ZAKARIA: Obama and his team watched the operation from a cramped conference room in the White House.


OBAMA: I was sitting here in my windbreaker, I think gaze was there and Hillary and we were essentially watching what was happening in real-time. It's here where we observe, for example, that one of the helicopters got damaged in the landing.


ZAKARIA: A chopper carrying the troops had suddenly spun out of control as it tried to land. Obama's presidency rested in the hands of a helicopter pilot.


OBAMA: I was thinking that this is not an ideal start.


ZAKARIA: But the pilot managed the landing. The elite commandos ascended the stairs of the compound and found their man, making history for them and the president.


OBAMA: On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to Al Qaeda's terror, justice has been done.


ZAKARIA: It was the high point of Barack Obama's presidency.


ZAKARIA: But it proved to be a temporary high. Three years later, the United States watched as a new terror group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going for you, Barack Obama.

ZAKARIA: More brutal, more radical, more effective than Al Qaeda, swept through Syria and Iraq. Capturing major cities. Enslaving local populations. Attracting thousands of followers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any attempt for you, Obama.

ZAKARIA: And beheading Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Result in the bloodshed of your people.


ZAKARIA: It gave Donald Trump an opportunity to hammer at Obama's foreign policy.


TRUMP: He founded is and I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.


ZAKARIA: Up next, Barack Obama's biggest bet. Faced with a new American revolution.


ZAKARIA: The twists and turns to Obamacare, when we return.





ZAKARIA: Summer 2009.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After coming to you on a silver platter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have the rig for government not to control my health care.


ZAKARIA: Across the country, a grassroots rebellion gets ugly. The target, Barack Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't I have freedom? Because we elected somebody that was a taker of freedom?


ZAKARIA: Enraged by bailouts, now the right went ballistic over health care.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't they take the health care being forced down our throat?


ZAKARIA: The president was undeterred.


OBAMA: I'm not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.

We used a lot of political capital on health care and the reason is simple, we're the only advanced nation on earth that didn't make sure that every person had affordable health care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you consider that presidents have been trying since Teddy Roosevelt to get health care passed, FDR was hoping to do it, JFK.


ZAKARIA: No matter how hard the road, what history will record is that Obama got it done.


OBAMA: We are done.



ZAKARIA: But that achievement that seven presidents attempted, once thought impossible, is now at risk.


TRUMP: It's over for Obamacare.



ZAKARIA: This is the story of the epic battle to pass Obamacare.


OBAMA: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. President.


ZAKARIA: It began just days into Obama's presidency.

It was a big bet that he could do something that seven presidents couldn't...


ZAKARIA: ... in the middle of an economic...


AXELROD: Yes, it was a huge bet.


ZAKARIA: A bet many wanted to place somewhere else.


RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER CORRESPONDENT: He had half a dozen big domestic policy goals that were fighting for attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President of the United States.


ZAKARIA: First, Obama took his case to the very people he knew would try to kill it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Let there be no doubt, health care reform cannot wait. It must not wait. And it will not wait another year.


AXELROD: When we were discussing health care, he said, what are we supposed to do, put our approval rating on the shelf and admire it for eight years or are we supposed to draw down on it to try to get things that are important done for the country?

LIZZA: This was a unique alignment of the stars for one party. A democratic president, a big majority in the Senate, a decent sized majority in the House.


ZAKARIA: Knowing what he faced from the republican opposition, the president who ran as a government outsider surrounded himself with political insiders.


RAHM EMANUEL, CHICAGO MAYOR: There was the opportunity to do things that nobody had the political will to do before.

[10:25:01] ZAKARIA: Rahm Emanuel, an arm-twisting deal maker. He had rapidly ascended the democratic leadership in Congress. He knew the Hill and he knew health care.


EMANUEL: There's some value having gone, been in the Clinton White House, saw where it went wrong from the inside.


ZAKARIA: Emanuel and Obama knew they needed congressional buy-in this time. They decided Congress should write the bill.


OBAMA: I just want to make sure that I don't get in the way of all of you moving aggressively and rapidly.


ZAKARIA: ANd there were others Obama needed on his side. The special interests, insurance companies, big pharma, the doctors associations.


ZAKARIA: Karen represents America's health insurance plans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We understand we have to earn a seat at the table.


ZAKARIA: He wanted the very groups that killed health care reform in the past inside the room now. In March 2009, he brought them all to the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We kept every one of those but one at the table.

OBAMA: All of the groups here need to stay involved.


ZAKARIA: They all made demands. Obama made deals.


LIZZA: None of these groups are doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They're negotiating, they want the best deal possible.


ZAKARIA: He compromised on the thing that was most sacred to him, the individual mandate that every citizen buy health care. The idealistic candidate had become a steely-eyed pragmatist. Obama pushed lawmakers to pass a bill and fast.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you get the impression that they're trying to jam something through Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which is clearly designed for a government takeover of our health care system.


ZAKARIA: But by August recess, there was no vote.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody back off.


ZAKARIA: Capitol Hill lawmakers went home to angry constituents raging at town hall meetings.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The wave of angry mobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The protester who came to a town hall meeting today with a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things are getting physical.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, you universal health care is a big fat no.


ZAKARIA: The tea party had found its moment and its cause. Republicans began running away from health care. So did many democrats. Many White House advisers thought it was time for Obama to do the same.


AXELROD: He turned to Phil Schiliro, his legislative director, and said, "Phil, what are the chances of passing this law?" And Phil said, "Well, it depends how lucky you feel, Mr. President." And the president just smiled and said, "Phil, I'm a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama, I'm President of the United States, so I feel lucky every day."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel that this is the time. Now is the time.


ZAKARIA: And then a huge loss to the country lit a new fire under the president.


WOLF BLITZER, THE SITUATION ROOM SHOW HOST: Happening now, the lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, succumbs to brain cancer at the age of 77.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He realized how important it was to him that he get this done because it's something Senator Kennedy had been fighting for decades as well.

OBAMA: And may he rest in eternal peace.

I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future. And that is the issue of health care.


ZAKARIA: Obama took the unusual step of going back to Congress.


OBAMA: I still believe we can act.



ZAKARIA: But the ugliness of the fight followed him in.


OBAMA: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.



ZAKARIA: A republican congressman had called the president a liar.


AXELROD: I couldn't imagine that happening to another president.


ZAKARIA: There was another problem. Obama would need 60 democratic senators for a veto-proof majority. And the 60th seat was up for grabs in Massachusetts.

It had been assumed Ted Kennedy's seat would go to a democrat. It was, after all, Massachusetts. But suddenly, a republican named Scott Brown was surging.


SCOTT BROWN, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR: I thank the people of Massachusetts for electing me.

AXELROD: That was the death nil for health care because he was the 60th vote.


ZAKARIA: A year of his presidency was gone. Political capital spent. And Barack Obama was staring at a likely defeat.


ZAKARIA: There are people who think that if Obama had been more of a schmoozer that, you know, maybe the people like you were too partisan, that somehow he needed to reach out.

EMANUEL: Yes, we're just one golf game away from singing Kumbaya. Give me a break.


ZAKARIA: Desperate, Obama changed gears. First, he apologized to the country.


OBAMA: I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.


ZAKARIA: Then he barnstormed for the bill across America and in Congress.


OBAMA: I may not be the first president to take up the cause of health care reform. I am determined to be the last.



ZAKARIA: And he made more concessions giving up the public option which would have created a government insurance program that would have competed with private companies.


OBAMA: We ended up having to wrestle this thing to the ground in a way that was less than ideal from my perspective.


ZAKARIA: Finally, March 21st, 2010.


[10:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One this vote the ayes are 219, the nays are 212. The motion to confirm the Senate members is adopted.

BLITZER: For decades, they've been trying to do it. It has now been done.


ZAKARIA: Without a single republican vote, the vote passed. The White House celebrated.


SUSAN RICE, UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I asked the president, how does this night compare to election night? And he said, there's no comparison. Election night was all about getting to tonight. This is why we worked so hard.



ZAKARIA: Days later when President Obama arrived in the east room to sign the bill into law, Vice President Joe Biden summed up the moment. And a big bet that paid off.


OBAMA: Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat.


ZAKARIA: Of course, the republicans vowed to keep fighting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are resolved to have this law go away. And we're going to do everything we can to stop it.



ZAKARIA: The fight against Obamacare has gone on ever since, and there is no question that the program has real problems. From broken promises...


OBAMA: If you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan.


ZAKARIA: ... to soaring premiums.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obamacare premiums will rise an average of 22 percent next year.


ZAKARIA: But 20 million people who were uninsured now have health care. Can it survive?


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think that President Obama should apologize for Obamacare.


ZAKARIA: But for now, the foundational idea that every American has the right to basic health care stands as Barack Obama's signature achievement.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The big question is, at the end of somebody's presidency, do people feel that their lives were better? There's a certain sense in which having accomplished something that presidents before you tried to get and is a fundamental right for Americans, that's a big thing.


ZAKARIA: This is Shishmaref, Alaska, just south of the Arctic circle and about as far west as you can go in the continental United States.


OBAMA: About 15 years ago, the people of a small thousand-year-old oceanfront hunting village noticed something odd.


ZAKARIA: Barack Obama spoke about the town in his first major speech on climate change in 2006 as a young senator.


OBAMA: Ice that had surrounded and protected their village began to grow slushy and weak.


ZAKARIA: Obama had read about the troubles of Shishmaref in a New York article. Soon the village, itself, began to disappear. Chunks of land sheered away and home after home was destroyed by storms that grew stronger and stronger every year.


OBAMA: The story of the village that disappeared is by no means isolated and it's by no means over.


ZAKARIA: Obama saw in Shismaref a frightening future if global warming continued unabated.


OBAMA: The climate is getting warmer and if you think of us being in a car where we're speeding towards a cliff, we're starting to try to tap on the brakes. If we do what we need to do over the next 20, 30, 40 years, then it's a manageable problem. If we don't, it will not be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?

OBAMA: I am.


ZAKARIA: He came to the White House committed to stopping the car from going over the cliff.


OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...


ZAKARIA: And laid out a bold agenda to do just that.


OBAMA: Now America has arrived at a crossroads.



ZAKARIA: His stimulus bill included lots of money for clean energy. Van Jones was the Obama White House's green jobs guru.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's impossible to overstate how important climate change was to the Obama administration in the first year.


ZAKARIA: But Obama's bold agenda was soon stymied.

OBAMA: Here we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: National energy tax.


ZAKARIA: By a recalcitrant Congress. By a chorus of climate change deniers. And by the fact that Americans just did not care about climate change. It was ranked the 11th most important issue during the 2008 election - out of 12 options.

So, the president decided to fight climate change on his own. In December of 2009, at a climate conference in Copenhagen, Obama displayed his determination to play a major role on this issue on the global stage.

OBAMA: Good morning.

ZAKARIA: As Hillary Clinton later explained in a democratic primary debate --

[10:35:02] HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama and I were hunting for the Chinese.


ZAKARIA: She and president Obama found themselves chasing Beijing's delegation at that conference. Why?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: We knew we had to get them to agree to something because there will be no effective efforts against climate change unless China and India join with the rest of the world.


ZAKARIA: When the American delegation found out about a secret meeting between China, India and other developing nations, they sent out a search party, found the meeting and the president and secretary of state crashed it.


OBAMA: Are you ready for it or do you guys need to talk some more? It's up to you. (Inaudible) What do you think? Premier, are you waiting for me or do you want wait?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, those guys...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My guys got in just like you guys got in. This is a joint meeting. My guys get in or we're leaving the meeting.


ZAKARIA: It might have been undiplomatic, but according to Clinton, it led to a breakthrough. She says the deal forged in that room put them on the road to future progress.

Back at home, though, there was little progress on climate. So, as the first term turned into the second, Obama tasked his team with getting America on the right track in the face of a once again hostile Congress.


JONES: President Obama from the very beginning had the power to do something about climate change.

He didn't want to do it. I want to work through Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.


ZAKARIA: Obama put the legislative branch on warning in his 2013 State of the Union.


OBAMA: But if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will.


ZAKARIA: Congress did not act.


OBAMA: Clean air, clean water.


ZAKARIA: Obama did in the summer of 2015.


OBAMA: There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.


ZAKARIA: Obama took aim at one of the key causes of climate change.

OBAMA: Right now, our power plants are the source of about a third of America's carbon pollution. That's more pollution than our cars, our airplanes and our homes generate combined.


ZAKARIA: The president's clean power plan would set new limits for the first time on how much smoke those plants could spew. And forget Congress, this was a unilateral executive action.


The audience at Obama's announcement may have applauded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all about coal.


ZAKARIA: But from other quarters, the reaction was anger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our nation's coal miners provide affordable electricity that continues to power America.


ZAKARIA: And the anger wasn't contained to coal. President Obama's old law school professor and mentor, Laurence Tribe who it must be said was representing a coal company, had compared Obama's tactics on climate change to nothing less than...


LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR: Burning the Constitution of the United States. OBAMA: Those who would argue that any actions I've taken had been contrary to my legal powers are wrong and we've taken it really seriously and I make no apologies for it.


ZAKARIA: Despite the president's confidence, the clean power plan hasn't gone into effect. More than two dozen states sued to stop it. The Supreme Court ordered the implementation delayed until the appeals play themselves out.

And now, President-elect Trump has vowed to rescind it. But what will he do with Obama's signature climate achievement, the Paris Agreement?


In December of 2015, in the city of light, 196 nations agreed by consensus to limit the planet's warming to 2 degrees Celsius. That's a threshold many scientists believe will prevent disaster.


OBAMA: Of course, it took a long time it reaches this day. One of the reasons I ran for this office was to make America a leader in this mission.


ZAKARIA: And America is now undoubtedly a leader, perhaps the leader on climate change.

[10:39:56] Clean energy is a vast and growing American industry, and more than 100 countries have signed on to the Paris Agreement which went into legal effect just four days before the 2016 presidential election.


OBAMA: If 20, 30, 50 years from now we look back and we say we dealt with this in a serious way, I'll be happy to say that that was one of my proudest achievements. Even though I didn't do it by myself.


ZAKARIA: As for Shishmaref, the Alaskan island that was disappearing a decade ago, the world's actions appear to have come too late.

In August of 2016, the villagers voted to leave the ravaged island and move to the mainland. But will others be saved by the progress made under President Obama? Maybe not, because President-elect Trump has said he believes climate change is a hoax. He's vowed to bring back the coal mines and to cancel U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement.



ANDERSON COOPER, AC360 SHOW HOST: Good evening, and welcome. Thank you very much.


ZAKARIA: It was the answer heard around the world. Then-Senator Obama had been thrown an unexpected question from an ordinary American.


COOPER: This is the CNN YouTube debate.


ZAKARIA: Would he meet without preconditions with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea?


OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous. But it we...


COOPER: Thanks very much, everyone. Good night.


ZAKARIA: Viewed today, the statement might not seem extraordinary, but in 2007, it was practically revolutionary to say that an American president would speak to strongmen like Iran's Ahmadinejad and North Korea's Kim.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Constitute and axis of evil.


ZAKARIA: Two-thirds of then-President Bush's axis of evil.


CLINTON: Certainly we're not going to just have our president meet with half...


[10:44:59] ZAKARIA: Hillary Clinton poked holes in Obama's argument on stage that night and the reviews were pretty unanimous. Obama's answer was naive.


Those are the last people I'd meet with in my first year. I'd never meet with those guys.



ZAKARIA: But Obama strategist David Axelrod says that the future president was adamant on a phone call with staff. Obama told them.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We're not backing off at all. I actually think that was the moment when he found his voice in that campaign because he realized that he was bringing a point of view that nobody else was going to bring.


ZAKARIA: That voice continued when he was inaugurated.


OBAMA: We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.


ZAKARIA: Iran in 2009 was a nation with a very tightly clenched fist.


OBAMA: This is a country that had been hostile toward us and we'd been hostile towards for decades.


ZAKARIA: But after just two months in office, Obama decided to try something new on this old enemy.


OBAMA: Today I want to extend my very best wishes to all who are celebrating Norooz around the world.


ZAKARIA: Norooz is the Persian New Year.


OBAMA: For nearly three decades, relations between our nations have been strained, but at this holiday, we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together.


ZAKARIA: Veteran Middle East reporter Robin Wright was in Iran when obam Obama's message was delivered.


ROBIN WRIGHT, MIDDLE EAST REPORTER: It was electrifying the impact it had on people who believed that for the first time maybe the Americans were really serious about a dialogue.


ZAKARIA: Those hopes for a dialogue became fears about a confrontation just six months later.

OBAMA: Good morning.

ZAKARIA: Obama along with France's Nicolas Sarkozy and the U.K.'s Gordon Brown made a stunning announcement. Iran had been keeping an explosive secret.


OBAMA: Demonstrating that the Islamic republic of Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years.

WRIGHT: This is one of those got you moments and it was a worrying sign because it indicated Iran had a much more advanced program.


ZAKARIA: The crisis had an upside. It brought the world's most powerful nations together. The United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and China and Russia were now all determined to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

There were fits and starts, talks and negotiations, but little progress to show until 2013, an auspicious year, the year the team would crack the toughest issue in world politics all came together.


OBAMA: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. President.



ZAKARIA: It was the year that President Obama was inaugurated for the second time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Kerry, your thoughts at this point?


ZAKARIA: And John Kerry, a Vietnam War vet, an advocate of diplomacy, took office as the new secretary of state. It was the year that the relatively moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected the seventh President of Iran.


HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT: We're all endowed with free will.


ZAKARIA: And named the American educated Mohammad Javad Zarif as Kerry's counterpart.


WRIGHT: The credentials, the personal history of these four men was pivotal in pulling it off. It is doubtful that if any of the four had been different, that we really would have gotten to this point.


ZAKARIA: The importance of that chemistry began to be clear in September 2013. It was the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations in New York. Secretary of State John Kerry.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States and Iran had not had their secretaries of state or foreign ministers talk in decades.


ZAKARIA: But that was soon to change.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now where is that guy, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll bring you in. We'll bring you in.


ZAKARIA: After a multilateral meeting where Kerry and Zarif sat next to each other, the two diplomats went to another room at the U.N. for what was supposed to be just a meet and greet. It turned into much more.


KERRY: Little room on the side of the Security Council, no windows, you know, just the two of us in a very small space. I think taking stock of each other and of the situation.


ZAKARIA: The planned brief encounter turned into a 30-minute serious conversation.


KERRY: I have just met with him now on a side meeting.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: We stress on the need to continue these discussions, to give it the political impetus that it requires.


[10:50:02] ZAKARIA: These were the highest-level talks between the United States and Iran in decades, but that record didn't last long.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just a 15-minute phone call but one that was 34 years in the making.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The highest-level conversation between the two nations since 1979.


ZAKARIA: A historic conversation as Obama picked up the phone and called Rouhani, the first dialogue between an American President and an Iranian leader since Jimmy Carter spoke to the Shah of Iran.


OBAMA: I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.


ZAKARIA: Over the almost two years of negotiations that followed, there were disbelievers about the deal abroad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Such a deal does not block Iran's path to the bomb, such a deal paves Iran's path to the bomb.


ZAKARIA: At home in the United States.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't understand why we'd sign an agreement with a group of people who, in my opinion, have no intention of keeping their word. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: And in Iran


ZAKARIA: Even the negotiators, themselves, weren't sure that they could get to the finish line.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it's fair to say that we're hopeful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much.

KERRY: It was one moment when I visited with my counterpart and I just asked him pointblank, I said, are you sure you guys really want to try to get this done? Because I'm not sure that you do based on where we are.


ZAKARIA: But in the end, both sides did want to get it done. And on July 14th, 2015, a deal was struck.


KERRY: This moment has been a long time coming, and we have worked very hard to get here.


ZAKARIA: That hard work almost didn't pay off. Congress tried to block the deal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order, please. Please, take your...


ZAKARIA: In the end, the opposition failed, and in January 2016, the nuclear agreement with Iran went into effect.


OBAMA: What we were able to accomplish has been remarkable and even our most severe critics cannot argue with the fact that without launching a bomb, without initiating a war, we've been able to remove an enormous threat.


ZAKARIA: But now it is all in jeopardy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The nuclear deal is a disaster.


ZAKARIA: Will Donald Trump rip up the deal? National security adviser Susan Rice says that would be a terrible idea.


RICE: To scrap it when it's working would put us outside of the bounds of what is an international agreement so it's a win/win for Iran. Our allies and partners are furious at the United States and their nuclear program can proceed unabated. It doesn't serve our interests.


ZAKARIA: Next up, my thoughts on the legacy of Barack Obama.


ZAKARIA: In May 2010, Time magazine tells us Barack Obama invited a group of America's most distinguished presidential historians to dinner at the White House.

He was searching for ideas, examples and lessons from his predecessors. But as the conversation progressed, Time reported, it became clear to several in the room that Obama was most interested in the accomplishments of Ronald Reagan.

Reagan on first glance was an unlikely model. An archconservative, actor turned politician, was better known for his anecdotes in humor than analysis and intellect, but Obama saw that Reagan had been a transformational president.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Go forward, America, and reach for the stars.



ZAKARIA: Someone who, as he said while campaigning in 2008, had changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. Clearly, that was Obama's aspiration as well, to change the trajectory of America. Did he? If I'd been taking stock in mid-2016, the case would have been overwhelming.



ZAKARIA: The Obama administration passed new universal health care, it fundamentally reshaped America's energy policy to combat climate change and fuel a green energy revolution. It enacted the largest reorganization of the financial industry since the Great Depression.


OBAMA: Here we go. It's done.



ZAKARIA: And most of this happened in the first 18 months. But, of course, all that is in jeopardy. Donald Trump has vowed to erase the Obama presidency. Some of it he can easily erase. Other parts might prove more indelible.

Twenty two million people are on Obamacare. Clean energy is now a huge American industry with millions of jobs.


OBAMA: We must come together as nations and...


ZAKARIA: Obama's foreign policy focused on diplomatic solutions, wary of military interventions and nation building, reflects the mood of the country.

But on the whole, many of his policies will be under pressure and could be rolled back entirely. How did this happen? When looking back at presidents like Johnson or FDR, it's clear that to sustain a long legacy, you need not just to get elected president but to forge a political coalition.

Johnson and Roosevelt had congressional majorities that lasted. Obama is an intensely charismatic politician, but he was not able to build a political base underneath him.

In fact, during his eight years, the Democratic Party has suffered a historic series of defeats at the state and national levels, putting them in the last position they've been in since the 1920s.

Was that Obama's failure? A lack of political skill, perhaps, though it is equally likely that the currents were stronger than one person could shift. In recent years, America has gone through enormous economic, technological, political and cultural change. And in some parts of the country, there has been a backlash to that change and to an African-American president.

It remains unclear whether the country was ready for Obama's vision. The most dramatic bet he made was health care. He spent the first few years of presidency and all his political capital on passing it.

And I would argue that even if Trump finds a way to repeal and replace it, it remains a historic achievement. Obama did what seven presidents failed to do. He made health care a fundamental right. It is the signature achievement of a consequential president.

But presidential legacies also exist above and beyond laws and policies. We remember John F. Kennedy for energy, vitality, elegance and intelligence that he brought to the White House. And in that sense Obama has left an indelible mark.

He and his family occupied the White House with dignity, grace, and good humor. He ran an administration that was largely scandal free and did it all the while under a microscope. Because he looked different.

In a sense, America made a big bet in electing Barack Obama as its first African-American president.

[11:00:01] And with respect to his personal character and intellect, most of the country believes it was a bet that paid off.

I'm Fareed Zakaria. Thanks for joining us.