Friday, August 15, 2014

The Second Term Blues, Part 2

As Barack Obama prepared to take his oath for a second term, I wrote a piece called "The Second Term Blues", in which I pointed out that Second Terms have been, well, awful, over the past 50 years or so.  One point I made is that the things which blow up Second Terms are usually unexpected:

"Many Republicans believe they already know what will make his term a failure.  Massive deficits, 8% unemployment, the pending economic impact of Obamacare, Iran's quest for nuclear power, etc. 

But second terms tend to have quite unexpected problems.  Most voters had never heard of Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica Lewinsky, or housing bubbles when they signed up for a second term." 

We're more than halfway through the second term of the Obama Administration and many of the issues dogging it were not campaign issues back in 2012.  Russian aggression?  ISIS?  A border crisis?

None of these are the Presidents' fault, but his handling of - and misreading of them - have been hard to watch.  He famously mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for mentioning Russia in a foreign policy debate (“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”), and as recently as early this year referred to ISIS as a jayvee squad ("The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant").

Well, today, in the Washington Post, former Obama official and Harvard President Lawrence Summers argues that, perhaps, we should limit Presidents to single, 6-year terms.

Link:  WashPo story on 6-year term

It's not a particularly persuasive argument.  Second terms, in and of themselves, are not the problem. Watergate and Vietnam and Iran-Contra were not the results or by-products of second terms.  It's hard to imagine a 2010 version of Barack Obama would have been more prescient, or acted more wisely, about ISIS than he is today.

*  it's a nearly impossible what-if analogy, since the 2010 Barack Obama would have had American troops in Iraq, which would have prevented ISIS from erupting.  Indeed, ISIS is far more a byproduct of First-Term Obama and First-Term Bush than Second-Term Obama.   

And it's not like Bill Clinton suddenly decided to start hitting on women he wasn't married to in his second term.

Dang, I don't know what's best for the country.  What I do know is, if I ever become President, and have a halfway decent First Term, I'm pulling a Costanza...

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