The Campaign Spot

Would a Second-Term Obama Be Any Different?

The final Morning Jolt of the week is bursting at the seams today, with news on the YouTube filmmaker, a couple of vocal Obama voters worth remembering, how Romney is hitting the sequestration deal, and then this contemplation of what we would see in a second term under Obama…

Four More Years of This?

Does anyone have any reason to think the next four years under Obama would be significantly different from the past two to four years?

(I say two to four, since he’ll probably be dealing with Speaker Boehner and not Speaker Pelosi. So a second term of Obama would probably look and feel more like 2011-2012 than 2009-2010.)

Think we’ll see anything different in how the president approaches the economy? We never generated much of a real recovery from the 2008 crash, and look at where we are, four years later:

I’ve frequently written about research from the Fed which finds that since 1947, when two-quarter annualized real GDP growth falls below 2%, recession follows within a year 48% of the time. And when year-over-year real GDP growth falls below 2%, recession follows within a year 70% of the time… Growth the past two quarters has averaged about 1.6%. Not only does this mean the economy is growing more slowly than last year’s 1.8%, it is also slow enough to signal about a 50% chance of a recession within a year. And the third quarter also looks weak.

The anemic, three-year-old U.S. recovery is already running out of steam. And if it does, it may be several more years before we see unemployment below 8%.

Except if Obama’s reelected, there’s a chance he may strong-arm depressed Republicans in Congress into acquiescing on tax increases. So imagine the already gloomy economic outlook, with tax increases dolloped on top of that.

Think we’ll see anything different in our approach to Iran? I’m glad Obama realizes that on his approach to Iran in his first year, he was wrong and his Republican critics were right. I just don’t know how much his approach has changed, considering the periodic snubs, brush-offs, and other antagonism towards Israel’s concerns about the Iranian nuclear program.

We know we’ll see… “more flexibility” in our dealings with Putin. We’re going to be “more flexible” in negotiations with a leader characterized as cruel, paranoid, and “venomously anti-Western.” Can’t wait, huh?

Obama went to the United Nations, made a pretty good defense of the First Amendment and how the best response to offensive speech is more speech, not attempts to ban it… and the leaders of the Muslim world pretty much ignored him.

Remember, Obama is on record as saying that he thinks Republicans will be more willing to compromise after his reelection: “Given how stark the choices are, I do think that should I be fortunate enough to have another four years, the American people will have made a decision. And hopefully, that will impact how Republicans think about these problems… My expectation is that there will be some popping of the blister after this election, because it will have been such a stark choice.” And you thought he was naïve about the Middle East!

I mention all this because our friend Jonah has put the magnifying glass to a remarkably un-discussed aspect of the 2012 election. Despite four years of results that only his most loyal defenders would call satisfactory, Obama is largely the same guy he was when he walked into the job January 20, 2009. He doesn’t think he’s made any major mistakes of substance or policy. He thinks his lone problem is insufficient storytelling. Jonah observes:

In the 2008 primaries, Obama and Hillary Clinton had an intense argument over the nature of the presidency. Clinton argued that real change came when skillful politicians moved the machinery of Washington toward progressive ends. The president was a “chief executive officer” who is “able to manage and run the bureaucracy,” she explained.

No, no, replied Obama. The presidency “involves having a vision for where the country needs to go . . . and then being able to mobilize and inspire the American people to get behind that agenda for change.”

So, after four years on the job, Obama has learned that he was right all along! How humble.

Except that’s not the story of Obama’s presidency. Contrary to popular myth, Obama has not rallied public opinion to his side on a single major domestic issue.

The idea that health-care reform was an “outsider-driven” affair is especially otherworldly. Unpopular from the get-go, it passed with ugly horse trades and legislative bribes that helped spur an outsider movement to defeat it, i.e., the Tea Parties.

His claim that he was too busy “getting the policy right” to tell the people a story is doubly creepy in its lack of self-awareness. All the reporting about Obama’s first term suggests that he outsourced the heavy lifting on the stimulus, “Obamacare,” and Wall Street reform to the Democratic leadership while he indulged his logorrheic platitudinousness. According to Bob Woodward’s new book, even Nancy Pelosi hit mute on the speakerphone (which she’s denied) during one of Obama’s perorations, and she and Harry Reid went on with their meeting.

In his first year, Obama barely stopped talking to the American people, who unfortunately didn’t always have a mute button handy. According to CBS’s Mark Knoller, Obama gave 411 speeches or statements (52 addresses solely on health-care reform), 42 news conferences, 158 interviews, 23 town-hall meetings, and 28 fundraisers.

And what did Obama learn from all of this? Nothing, nothing at all.

If second-term Obama is going to be different in any way, it’s that he’s probably going to be even more pleased with himself, even less inclined to do interviews where he might get hard questions, even more ubiquitous in our television in pop culture venues (“The View”, cooking shows, late night comedy shows, Entertainment Tonight, sports commentary, interviews with radio hosts like “The Pimp With the Limp” and so on). After all, reelection will be the ultimate vindication. He offered up results that his critics declared to be a buffet table of failure… and a majority of Americans said, “More, please.”


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