Obama’s Second Term Would Be Neither Groundbreaking Nor A Calamity

The truth about a Second Obama Term is that it likely wouldn't be all that remarkable.

John Harris and Carrie Budoff Brown take to Politico to try to figure out what clues to a Second Term agenda might be found in President Obama’s Third State Of The Union tonight:

As he stands before the nation Tuesday evening to present his State of the Union address, Obama is a president whose positions may be well-known but whose agenda — what he actually intends and can reasonably expect to achieve if voters give him four more years — is blurry.

This is a stark turnabout from his situation when he ran for president in 2008. He campaigned then not simply on gauzy “yes, we can” themes but on a specific set of items that were easy to enumerate. Elect me, he said, and we will do these things: enact health care reform, wind down the Iraq War, reregulate Wall Street and impose a cap-and-trade system to fight global warming and push for a broad compromise to overhaul the immigration system.

His record on achieving those promises is mixed, of course, but Obama clearly has won some victories and is facing voters this year hoping for credit on what he has done. What he has not done yet is offer similar precision about what a second term would actually look like.

The nationally televised speech is, in part, an effort to remedy this. But it is hardly a simple matter. People close to Obama acknowledge that he himself believes the honest answer to what he plans to do in a second term is — it depends.

Absent big — and for the moment, unlikely — Democratic gains in congressional races, the chances are high that the election will not bring clarity but more divided government. That means part of Obama’s election-year message, at least implicitly, is to elect him not for what he would do but for what he would stop conservative Republicans from doing.

Obama aides have already forecast that the president’s message will describe a sharp philosophical divide on the proper role of government in the modern economy, with Obama leading Democrats in insisting that government promote greater opportunity and fairness. This offers the makings of a far-reaching partisan debate, but that is different than an ambitious programmatic agenda.

As for the items that remain on Obama’s menu of unfinished business, most face enormous practical hurdles. Republicans, so far, are not interested in finding common cause with him on a grand, long-term budget bargain. Some things he promised in 2008 to do — cap-and-trade legislation and immigration reform — didn’t happen precisely because they are so politically incendiary, and there is no evidence that Obama wants to make them pillars of his reelection bid.

So what does he do now, at a time when the government has little money to spend?

“The biggest thing any president can do is set the agenda, and he has done that,” said Paul Begala, a former Clinton aide and adviser to Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC. “In 2010, the agenda was set for him, not by him. The agenda was cutting government. That was never a game Obama can win. The debate is now about economic opportunity for the middle class, about inequality, about these terrible economic divides. That is a game Obama can’t lose.”

White House aides have been hesitant to describe Tuesday’s State of the Union as the forum during which he will declare his vision for a second term.

There’s a good reason for that, and it’s one that neither Democrats, nor the Republican wanting to unseat President Obama want you think about very much. Recent history makes very clear that second Presidential terms are rarely as successful or “revolutionary” as a First Term. Sometimes, this happens because an Administration gets mired down in a scandal, real or imagined. Richard Nixon’s second term was centered on, and ultimately ended by, Watergate. Ronald Reagan’s second term saw the passage of massive tax reform in 1986, but soon got mired down when Democrats regained control of the Senate in the 1986 mid-terms and, only days later, the world first learned of what became known as the Iran-Contra Scandal. Bill Clinton’s second term lacked many of the domestic achievements his first term saw and soon became mired down in Monica Lewinsky and impeachment. George Bush’s second term got wrapped up in pubic dissatisfaction over the quagmire in Iraq and then fell apart when the Democrats regained control of Congress and the economy started heading into the tank. There’s every reason to believe that a second Obama Term would follow this pattern.

As I noted, the tendency for second Presidential terms to be largely a disappointment is something neither Democrats nor Republicans would like to acknowledge publicly. Democrats would prefer their supporters to think that a second Obama Administration would mean further progress on the goals set in the campaign, many of which have been abandoned over the past three years. Republicans, on the other hand, want their supporters to believe that a second Obama Administration would be an absolute calamity and, indeed, I’ve run into more than a few conservatives who seem absolutely convinced of the silly idea that the re-election of Barack Obama would mean the end of America. Neither of them would get much political mileage out of telling their supporters the truth, which is that a second Obama Administration is unlikely to be anywhere near as successful in achieving its goals, especially if one or both Houses of Congress is controlled by the opposition (or as long as the filibuster exists in the Senate).

Of course, history also shows that Presidents who find themselves constrained domestically in a second term typically set their sights overseas for a legacy. Even as the Watergate scandal percolated, Richard Nixon brought an end to U.S. involvement in Vietnam (a process that had started before 1973, of course) and worked to avoid a wider conflict when the Yom Kippur War erupted in 1973. Ronald Reagan reached out to Mikhail Gorbachev to reach broad ranging arms control treaties and reduced tensions with the Soviet Union, actions that earned him opprobrium from the conservatives who had been backing him so enthusiastically before. Bill Clinton initiated American military force against Serbia when Kosovo sought to secede from Yugoslavia, took military action against al Qaeda over the 1998 embassy bombings, bombed Iraq on the eve of his Impeachment by the House in connection with alleged Iraqi violations of restrictions against development WMDs, and made a major push to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Finally, George W. Bush enacted a major increase in troop presence in Iraq, increased aid to Africa to fight AIDS, and strengthened ties with India. Again, if his is any guide, we can expect Barack Obama to do something similar in a Second Term, whether it consists of a renewed quixotic push for progress on the Israeli/Palestinian issue or, as events may well compel whoever becomes President in 2013, a focus on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

This isn’t to say that a second Obama term would have no impact at all, surely that’s not the case. Even with a Republican Congress, the fact of a Democratic President would mean either that both sides in Washington will finally need to sit down and accomplish something, or we’ll have four more years of gridlock (personally, I’d bet on the later). Depending on who retires, the President who takes office in January 2013 could have the opportunity to appoint as many a 3 Supreme Court Justices over the ensuing four years, something that will have a huge impact on the course of American jurisprudence. As a whole, though, it’s likely that a Second Obama Term would follow the same pattern we’ve seen in the past, meaning that it will be neither groundbreaking nor disastrous. Unfortunately for America, though, it’s also likely to include a continuation of the gridlock and partisanship that has made it impossible to get any real work done in Washington, and that may be our biggest problem of all.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Obama is the choice of the risk-averse.

  2. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Well… Thank goodness that’s resolved.

    Carry on.

  3. @john personna:

    Which is why, when in doubt, always assume that an incumbent will be re-elected

  4. mattb says:

    but… but… he’s the most radical leftist-crypto maxist-islamo fascist-chicago thug-in over his head-plotting the destruction of America-black president we’ve ever had… and Limbaugh, Beck, Levin, Hannity, Savage, Bolling, Morris, Fox And Friends, Eric F, Manning, SD, and Red State have all assured me that the US will never survive.

    Dogs and cats living together!

    Mass Hysteria!

  5. Hey Norm says:

    @ Doug…
    Watergate…an illegal act and cover-up.
    Iran-Contra….an illegal act and cover-up.
    Lewinsky…an ill-advised Oval Office hummer and cover-up.
    Iraq…an ill-advised war of choice sold with manipulated intelligence.
    Which leads you to claim:

    “…There’s every reason to believe that a second Obama Term would follow this pattern…”

    Really? A pattern of illegal and ill-advised decisions…colossel f’ips every one. Where is your evidence that there is anything in the Obama White House that even remotely fits into this pattern? Seriously…what f’ing planet do you live on?

  6. Tillman says:

    Really depends on his re-electoral coattails in the end.

  7. Tillman says:

    Really? A pattern of illegal and ill-advised decisions…colossel f’ips every one. Where is your evidence that there is anything in the Obama White House that even remotely fits into this pattern? Seriously…what f’ing planet do you live on?

    Off the top of my head, the initiation of the Libyan war by completely ignoring Congressional authority, or maybe that healthcare law really isn’t well-designed.

  8. Jib says:

    I think the dems will take the house and Obama will win re-election but I do not think that changes much because of the senate. There is a lot that can and will happen between now and Nov, volatility is the dominate factor so it is will within the possibilities of repubs keeping the house (they will lose seats no matter what) and Romney winning the white house (sorry, I love what is going on in right now with Gingrich but please…..) However there will still be the senate dragging everything down.

    Unless you can get 60 votes in the senate you cant get anything done and after the way the repubs have behaved with Obama, Romney would be lucky to get a new WH chef through the senate in his first year.

    The senate is broken. I wonder if it is headed the way of the house of lords.

  9. Hey Norm says:

    @ Tillman…

    “…the initiation of the Libyan war by completely ignoring Congressional authority…”

    I’m not interested in re-litigating Libya…but at this point I don’t see how it comes back to bite Obama, even if your charachterization is accurate…which is dubious.
    As for the PPACA…It passed Congress with a super-majority…I just don’t see how it fits the pattern even if was designed as poorly as Medicare Part D.

  10. @Tillman:

    I don’t think Tillman should get a down-vote for naming the “best” examples of Obama failure. That they aren’t particularly exciting is the story.

  11. mattb says:

    On a more serious note, what seems somewhat ironic about Conservative Media’s histrionics about Obama and the imminent threat to America, is that these are the same people who constantly remind us of the divine exceptionalism of the US constitution.

    If you stop an think about it, these fears about Obama (or any other democrat/liberal) simultaneously imply that our country is based upon fragile, flawed, and powerless Constitution.

    Of course, the brilliance of the Constitution, even in the age of the imperial presidency, is that it has, for years protected us from having a single president (or any other individual) destroy the US as we know it. It seems strange (on either side) to claim that no is the moment when it changes.

  12. Tano says:

    There’s every reason to believe that a second Obama Term would follow this pattern.

    Actually, you have given us no reasons whatsoever. You make a case for a certain pattern in the past (although there is some cherry-picking involved), and you seem to think that those patterns themselves are evidence for what an Obama second term will be like. There is no substance to this.

    This post riffs off the Politico piece that searches for clues to the second term from Obama’s SOTU speech tonite.
    Would it not be reasonable to have held off writing this post till tomorrow – until you could actually hear what exactly Obama has to say?

  13. Rob in CT says:


  14. Hey Norm says:

    @ John/Tillman…
    I rarely use those up/down vote things…when I do it is usually because a comment is hilarious. I never down-vote an opposing argument.

  15. mattb says:

    @Rob in CT:
    Oh, I get it… Real cute! Whatever we think of– if we think of J. Edgar Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover will appear and destroy us, Okay?

    So empty your heads, don’t think of anything.

    We’ve only got one shot at this.

  16. I disagree- in many ways, Obama has been considerably restrained by running for a second term- as we can see from his recent speech, he desires to move our nation more into the model of the European Union (or even further left, to the Soviet Union), and the only thing keeping him checked and moderate are the ‘obstructionists’ in the GOP and his desire for more power and a second term.

    A lame-duck, unrestricted Obama would be recess appointments, signing statements, and exectutive fiat all over. He’d be impeached or destroy the nation in a mountain of debt- neither a good option for those of us who desire a stop to this partisan, divisive, and destructive political environment.

  17. rodney dill says:

    @Rob in CT: Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!

  18. WR says:

    @mattb: You forgot Alinsky!

  19. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    It all depends upon one’s perspective and station in life.

    If you’re independently wealthy (especially via inheritance) then a 2nd term for Obama likely would not be a calamity for you, nor even affect you in a material way.

    If you’ve already retired on public money benefits then a 2nd term for Obama almost definitely would not be a calamity for you. Especially if you’re already mostly dead in any event.

    If you still have years to go before you graduate (especially if mom and dad are footing the bill) then it’s quite unlikely that you’d be able even to grasp the calamity as it’s enveloping you. Nothing gained, nothing lost. At least not by way of perceptions.

    If you live in Taiwan, South Korea or Israel, however, there’s a material likelihood that a 2nd term for Obama will be a calamity for you.

    If your vocation consists of teaching or lecturing to a captive audience of kids on a university campus then it’s quite unlikely that you’d be able to grasp the calamity even if it overtly was derailing the future prospects of you and your own kids.

    If you’re part of the ever-shrinking middle class and you have to work for a living, and nobody’s about to die and will you a small fortune, then it’s very likely that a 2nd term for Obama will be a continued calamity for you.

  20. mattb says:

    @A Conservative Teacher:
    Why do you hate the constitution?

  21. @mattb:

    “I tried to think of the one thing that could never harm us….”

    *Giant Dennis Kucinich shows up and attacks Washington*

  22. @Hey Norm:

    Really? A pattern of illegal and ill-advised decisions…colossel f’ips every one. Where is your evidence that there is anything in the Obama White House that even remotely fits into this pattern?

    Fast and Furious could end up being an albatross if Obama gets reelected.

  23. Dave Schuler says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II:

    If you live in Taiwan, South Korea or Israel, however, there’s a material likelihood that a 2nd term for Obama will be a calamity for you.

    Could you explore that a little more for me, TN? If you’re saying that President Obama wouldn’t respond to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, a North Korean invasion of South Korea, or an Iranian attack on Israel, please submit evidence. You can’t be worrying about nuclear weapons. Taiwan is already threatened by Chinese nuclear weapons; has been for nearly a half century. South Korea is already, apparently, faced with North Korean nuclear weapons. IIRC that occurred under the Bush Administration and, admittedly, the Clinton Administration had the wool pulled over their eyes by the North.

  24. Rob in CT says:

    Ah yes, Obama the secret Stalinist. Oh, and I see Obama the appeasing weakling has been alleged as well.

    Where are you getting this stuff? The guy’s a moderate, in both temperament and policy preference. A left-of-center moderate, perhaps (arguable, IMO). There is absolutely no reason to believe he secretly fantasizes about turning us into the USSR, or even Sweden.

    As for the ongoing calamity for the middle class, I see no particular link to Obama. It’s been going on for ~30 years now (though it was masked by cheap credit for a while), and government policy is only part of the puzzle (granted, it’s the only part we can deal with via the political process).

    Funny, given that the federal government has shed jobs, I find it odd that the Tsar thinks more of Obama = happy times for governmental teat sucklers.

  25. @A Conservative Teacher, @Tsar Nicholas II:

    The paranoia is strong in these two.

  26. James in LA says:

    I would pick ending the Drug War as part of comprehensive immigration reform. But I would wait until after the election to announce and implement. The crazy GOP uncle from the attic is slow to return thus since the Holidays, and we must tread carefully until he does.

    Oh yes, and hand back the dreadful powers that were given to the President, but this is not realistic.

  27. bandit says:

    4 more years of abject failure.

  28. @Stormy Dragon:

    I could not see it being bigger than Iran-Contra, which despite being big at the time, is only now remembered by granola types.

  29. Hey Norm says:

    @ Stormy…
    Re: Fast and Furious
    It hasn’t gotten a lot of traction yet. Maybe there is more but they seem to have taken some steps at correcting it. Are they covering-up stuff? I guess they could be.
    It is an embarrasment.
    Maybe if Romney gets shot with one of the guns???

  30. Hey Norm says:

    Hey Bandit…how does that lead dogs butt smell?

  31. @bandit:

    Can you read a chart?

    The economist asks “America is recovering from the debt bust faster than European countries. Why?”

    This is really a trick question, because while you have been calling the Obama a “European-style socialist,” the European-style socialist have been following a conservative game plan. They’ve been reducing spending faster than us, and trying the austerity.

    … maybe that is too complicated for you. But the bottom line is that we are actually doing better than most, with the plan you hate. The only option (see our Teacher above) is to invent even worse scenarios that the Obama “woulda done” if the noble Tea Party hadn’t stopped him.

  32. Rob in CT says:

    I key paragraph from that post:

    That stands in stark contrast to most successful bouts of debt reduction. The McKinsey report pores over two episodes that it considers most relevant for today: the experiences of Sweden and Finland following their banking busts in the early 1990s. Debt reduction took place in two stages. In stage one, the private sector reduces its debts; the economy is weak and public debt soars. In stage two, growth recovers and the longer-term process of reducing government debt begins. In both these cases growth was buoyed by booming exports, a boon that seems unlikely this time. But it is telling that Sweden did not begin its budget-cutting until the economy had recovered; and that when Finland tried an early bout of austerity, this worsened its recession.

    And we’re seeing evidence of this sort of thing again. The countries that went straight to austerity are not doing very well. We’re hardly setting the world on fire, but we look good in comparison (one-eyed man/tallest midget).

  33. Frank Corey says:

    The 2012 election cycle is a grand exercise in servicing a system that is of, by, and for special interests and inimical to the citizenry and the country.

    On this planet only immutable realities work overtime. Only immutable realities serve the citizenry and the country. Immutable realities yes; today’s system no.

    The linchpin for destroying the legitimacy of constructs (today’s system) and positing what serves the citizenry and the country as the only legitimate bases for endeavors is the immutable reality governance, which is found at http://www.frankcorey.com.

    Normal people are in sync with immutable realities, so there is a consensus for immutable realities. Structures that serve the citizenry and the country are eminently doable.

  34. Brummagem Joe says:

    This is kind of popular wisdom but I don’t think it follows automatically. It depends on the size of Obama’s margin of victory and the shape of the new congress. If Obama wins which means a fairly large turnout it likely means the Dems hold the senate and make gains in the house. In this scenario with maybe a narrow house majority I find it hard to believe that obstruction a outrance is a viable strategy for the GOP particularly if it’s taking place against a background of a steadily improving economy. This would be even more so if a small war erupted in the GOP itself over the party’s future direction. For example in this scenario I could see Obama making a serious effort to address the immigrant question.

  35. anjin-san says:

    4 more years of abject failure.

    Yep. A Republican will end this 22 months of job gains nonsense and take us back to 2008, when we lost 2.6 million jobs. Good times. And we can end this wipe out Al–Qaeda crap Obama has been engaged in.

  36. @john personna:

    Actually, I could see it being exactly like Iran Contra. Takes a long time to get into the public conciousness, creates a big stink for a while, some administration officials end up resigning or going to jail while the president remains untouched, and then is more or less forgotten in a few years.

  37. Brummagem Joe says:

    Another thought that occurs to me is suppose income inequality and the tax system that allows multi millionaires to pay less tax than schoolteachers is the central feature of the campaign. Suppose Obama proposed a massive reform of the tax system aimed at more equity?

  38. Hey Norm says:

    @ Stormy/John…
    I think the difference is the Iran-Contra cover-up.
    Is there one with Fast and Furious?
    Maybe one we don’t know about? Possible.
    It seems more like just a colossal f’up…and something similar happened during the Bush Administration…so how does it get traction?

  39. @Brummagem Joe:

    Conservative Teacher, above, thinks that Obama is constrained from being more left. But certainly this field is also giving him no reason to move right, nor take any risks.

    If Obama wants tax reform, he’s much better off waiting to see the next Congress.

  40. @Hey Norm:

    What I was really trying to say is that I see F&F as less than IC, while noting that IC didn’t really hurt Reagan’s long term reputation.

    Obama can use the same speech, if he has to.

  41. Hey Norm says:

    @ Brummagem Joe…
    This morning Romney released his tax returns and they show a 13.9% effective rate.
    Tonight at the SOTU Michelle Obama will be sitting next to Debbie Bosanek…Buffet’s infamous secretary.
    There’s no doubt we will be hearing about inequity. And it’s not about bashing wealth or class warfare…as Doug likes to claim. It’s about 30 years of growing inequity, what that has done to the economy, and whether we continue with the staus quo as Romney proposes, or try to address it.
    [BTW…that is a far more interesting topic than this re-hashed Politico piece.]

  42. Jenos Idanian says:

    Let’s see… in his first term, Obama established his right to arbitrarily detain American citizens indefinitely without charges, summarily execute American citizens without benefit of trial or even indictment, wage a war without bothering to ever even mention it to Congress, ignore the bankruptcy laws when he wants to give GM to his union supporters, declare when Congress is recessed despite what Congress itself says… yeah, I’m sure his hypothetical second term will be marked with lethargy and ennui and listlessness. Nothing to trouble our minds about.

  43. gVOR08 says:

    Hypothetical outcomes should not be viewed in isolation. They should be compared to the alternatives. The alternatives seem to be victory by Romney or by Gingrich. A Gingrich victory is highly unlikely, and Gingrich’s actions as president would be like his actions to date, erratic. I won’t go into this unlikely and inherently unpredictable scenario.

    It seems unlikely Romney would be elected without some coattail, so assume he retains a GOP house and gets a majority, if not 60, in the Senate. They’ll likely be looking at continuing slow recovery, do nothing to improve it, not hurt it too badly, and take credit for it. If they succeed in taking credit, then we’re doomed to continuation of Republican policy: regressive tax cuts, deficits, and deregulation. The results will eventually be the same as last time.

    So you may be right that Obama won’t do anything earthshaking, but his reelection will avert a Republican return to power. Like someone said in ’09, the Obama administration is not stupid, and they’re not evil. I’ll take it.

  44. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Your list makes me worry quite a bit less about a second Obama term. There’s no reason to think the GOP candidate is going to be better than Obama on issues like indefinite detention, drone attacks or Libya. Someone like Gary Johnson maybe you could make that argument for, but not anyone that will get the nomination. Secondly, when you’re coming up with a list of things you don’t like about Obama, saving the domestic auto manufacturing industry might not be the best example. And disagreeing with GOP House over a their stunt to prevent Obama from using recess appointments in the face of unprecedented obstruction by the Senate GOP? There’s another recess next month, so if the Senate doesn’t move significantly on some nominees then Obama should really get moving with the recess appointments.

  45. Jenos Idanian says:

    @David M: First up, “saving the domestic auto industry?” For one, Ford was and is doing just fine. For another, an actual bankruptcy might have freed up GM and Chrysler from their crippling labor contracts and obligations without totally boning over the bondholders and other creditors, who were given pennies on the dollar while the Obama supporting unions got 100%.

    Next, Congress will only go on recess as long as Obama allows them — he’s shown that he determines if they really are recessed or not.

    Personally, there’s a part of me that likes the idea of a Republican president having the powers that Obama has established. It might actually get the Obama backers to realize just how dangerous those powers are, regardless of who holds them. Let me make it vivid for you: how would you feel about Dick Cheney, upon the disability of President Bush, utilizing his power to indefinitely detain or summarily execute people, even American citizens. Wouldn’t that be fun?

    Also, I see you don’t dispute Obama’s assertion of those powers, just that you’re not that worried about them because it’s Obama. Or that it’s only right-wingers that have a problem with it, because it’s Obama. You couldn’t be more wrong.

  46. @A Conservative Teacher:
    I disagree- in many ways, Obama has been considerably restrained by running for a second term- as we can see from his recent speech, he desires to move our nation more into the model of the European Union (or even further left, to the Soviet Union), and the only thing keeping him checked and moderate are the ‘obstructionists’ in the GOP and his desire for more power and a second term.

    Good lord, the Soviet Union? Really?
    That’s pathetic, with no basis in reality.

  47. Rob in CT says:

    No, he’s saying that if Obama loses, it will not be to a guy who will reverse course on those issues. When it comes to national security state overreach, the GOP is as bad or worse than Obama, who has turned out to be a terrible disappointment in that area.

    Again, if you were a Paul or Johnson backer, you’d have a point. But if your guy is Mitt or Newt, you haven’t a leg to stand on here.

    As for the auto bailout: as usual, the RW argument seems to be that contracts are sacred, except when they are labor contracts. Then they’re just an annoying obstacle to be overcome.


  48. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Rob in CT: No, bankruptcy courts have the right to set aside contracts if they determine they threaten the company’s continued existence. Not just the labor ones, all of ’em. But there was no “sharing” of the misery with GM and Chrysler; the folks who actually foolishly believed the laws and thought their bonds and investments were secure were told to go screw — the labor unions that backed Obama get their full share, to hell with the existing laws.

    But how about the rest of those powers? If I drop the auto takeover, will you discuss the detention law, the Anwar Al-Awlaki killing, the Libyan war, and the recess appointments?

  49. David M says:

    @Rob in CT: Exactly, I’m in now way saying it’s OK because Obama is on the Dem team. It’s just that he’s likely better than Romney or Gingrich. Libya is good example of this, as the GOP response was a combination of “Obama is doing the wrong thing”, “we should do more” and “why aren’t we doing anything yet”. None of those make me feel better about their judgment.

  50. Brummagem Joe says:

    @john personna:

    It thought that was more or less what I said. He makes fairness a big campaignin issue and then in his second term goes for a big tax reform.

  51. @Stormy Dragon:
    Re: Fast and Furious… I don’t know. The issue seems pretty far from the WH. More of a ATF issue which reflects on Obama, but I’m not sure there is a lot of real connection from his office – so the charge would be of complacence and agencies running amok, not a breaking the law type of scandal.
    But again, I’m not really up on the issue either.
    And I think it was a grandfathered in program, so again Obama may be dinged for being out of touch and too hands off, (which is not good, don’t get me wrong) but he’s not going to be seen as directly involved.

  52. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Hey Norm:

    Doug is up a gum tree if he thinks that in the present climate and with the distrust of financial engineering, that issues of tax fairness and the business model of PE firms are not going to loom very large in this election. And I used to work for a private equity firm at one remove.

  53. anjin-san says:

    Good lord, the Soviet Union? Really?
    That’s pathetic, with no basis in real

    How right you are. What Obama REALLY wants is to turn us into an Iran clone…

  54. Rob in CT says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    First, I rather doubt it was as skewed from the norm as you claim. I’ve learned over the past 10 years to be extremely skeptical of RW claims about this or that horrible threat to capitalism.

    If it was true that the bondholders got a worse deal then they usually would have in a normal bankruptcy process, the question is then this: what downstream impact will that have? Is there a hazard here of bondholders not investing in the future (or at least not investing in those companies?)? Weigh that against the saved jobs. Decide which matters more.

    I’m open to the possibility that the way the government intervened there was a mistake. But the returns so far seem pretty good.

    But how about the rest of those powers? If I drop the auto takeover, will you discuss the detention law, the Anwar Al-Awlaki killing, the Libyan war, and the recess appointments?

    I’ve addressed that in the other thread, but I’ll repeat it here:

    1. Detention law: bad, and the signing statement is laughable.
    2. Anwar Al-Awlaki (and 16-yr old son, IIRC): bad.
    3. Libyan war: bad, and displays how “neocons” and “liberal intereventionists” are simply two sides of the same coin. I emailed a friend the day it went down: “Barack Obama, neocon.”
    4. Recess appointments: the GOP was playing a BS game and now Obama tried an end-around. It should never have come to this, but I place most of the blame on the GOP obstruction.

    You continue to dodge the obvious: who can I vote for to improve 1-3? I answered it in the other thread: Gary Johnson (who we all know won’t get more than 1-2% of the vote) or, if he gets the GOP nom, Ron Paul. Neither Mitt nor Newt will improve these things.

    So, the accusations (at least 1-3) are valid. The solution, however, is not apparent.

  55. Rob in CT says:

    @David M:

    A good point. A responsible response from the GOP on Libya would’ve been:

    1. How does this advance our interests? Have you thought this through? What’s the plan, exactly?

    2. You need to get Congressional approval.

    Instead, we got:

    1. Waaaaah! Obama’s not doing anything on Libya. He’s dragging his feet!
    2. Oh. Um…. not enough! There should be boots on the ground! Wimp!
    3. And, uh, yeah, he should’ve asked Congress. Yeah.

    One can certainly point out that Libya shows that the Dems are often interventionist (not that, after Kosovo, we really should’ve needed a reminder) and decry that. But one cannot reasonably construe the GOP as an improvement… unless Ron Paul were to win and we all know that Paul has a ~25% ceiling he can’t break through.

  56. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Rob in CT: Let me refresh your memory a bit: Obama ordered the attack on Libya after careful consultation with the Arab League and NATO, but utterly blew off Congress. The law says nothing about the first two, but requires the third. The first notice Obama gave Congress (and the American people) that war with Qaddaffi was on the table was a public declaration of “by the way, we’re now bombing them.”

    It was also an exceptionally ill-advised move, for a multitude of reasons, but that’s not the point here — the point is that Obama, who had championed the War Powers Act as a senator, decided as president that it didn’t apply to him. He totally ignored its provisions.

    Likewise, he also decided that the existing bankruptcy and other regulatory laws covering GM and Chrysler’s crises didn’t apply when he, for all intents and purposes, nationalized them and chose how to dispose of them, picking which obligations would be dismissed, which would be honored fractionally, and which would be fully honored. By an amazing coincidence, the priority of the debtors matched up quite nicely with the degree of support they gave the Obama campaign. Odd little coincidence there.

    And someone note the date and time — Mr. Mataconis has pretty much endorsed Obama at this point. He’s found flaw after flaw after flaw with all the Republican candidates still running, and now saying that Obama’s re-election wouldn’t be so bad. Anyone want to wager on what date he will say that while he still holds his principles dear, he has no choice but to hold his nose and vote for Obama?

  57. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian: That in no way addresses the issue of how Romney or Gingrich would have made a better decision on Libya.

  58. Hey Norm says:


    “…Obama established his right to arbitrarily detain American citizens indefinitely without charges…”

    Except that came from Congress and Obama signed an Executive Order saying he would not do so.
    You have trouble with reality.

  59. Rob in CT says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I already agreed w/you about Libya: he didn’t get Congressional approval and that was wrong (note what I said would’ve been the proper GOP response). No memory refresher needed.

    Doug’s not going to vote Obama, man. He’ll vote Libertarian most likely.

  60. Rob in CT says:

    @Hey Norm:

    On the one hand, the signing statement is weak tea. It can easily be reversed by the next President. Hanging your hat on that just won’t fly.

    On the other hand, the damned thing passed with massive congressional support.

    It passed the House 283-136, with the Dems split evenly 93-93. That means the GOP was 190-43 in favor.

    It passed the Senate 93-7. The 7 nays were 3 Dems, 3 Reps, and 1 Indy (Bernie Sanders).

    I don’t see how anyone can look at this and decide giving power back to the GOP will improve matters. The Dems suck too, but seem to be slightly better. Which is pretty much my overall take on them.

  61. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: Oh, it was a signing statement! That makes it all better!

    Except for that signing statements have no legal standing, they can be reversed by another signing statement by this or any subsequent president, and Obama himself denounced the use of them. It’s essentially a promise that he won’t do it.

    Much like he will close down Guantanamo, post all bills on his web site for several days before signing them, bring down the debt, fund “shovel-ready” jobs with the stimulus, keep unemployment under 8%…

    Yeah, I’m so fully comforted that Obama won’t do something because he promised he won’t. Confidential sources tell me he even pinky-swore on it.

  62. Rob in CT says:

    He was blocked by Congress on Gitmo. Congress (particularly GOP reps) absolutely flipped out about it. That’s Obama’s fault?

    Also, please deal with the fact that the detention bill passed with huge majorities (including lopsided GOP support in the House).

    The rot goes deep. Team Blue and Team Red are both complicit.

  63. Jenos Idanian says:

    Rob, Obama vowed to close Gitmo within 120 days of taking office. The Congressional action you speak of was passed — and Obama signed — in January 2011. He had two years to do something, and he could have vetoed the bill in question.

    As far as the detention provision, Obama didn’t put up any kind of fight, just said “oh, well” and promised he wouldn’t use it. If he was opposed to it, he could have used some of his Congressional influence to oppose it, vetoed the bill, or done a host of other things. Instead, he “oh, so reluctantly” accepted the power to detain American citizens indefinitely.

    Should I denounce Congress for passing the bill? I think they’re horrible already. The Democrats, when the held the House, didn’t even TRY to pass a budget for two years. The Senate is just as pathetic. This — much like letting Obama pull off Libya and the “recess appointments” — is a gross abdication of their responsibilities and powers. And Obama’s been delighted to take up what they’ve abandoned.

    Which reminds me, of all things, of Arizona. Their immigration law was in response to the federal government’s refusal to uphold its own responsibilities, and now they’re investigating Fast and Furious because the Obama administration’s stonewalling on that one. But the principle of “if they won’t do their job, we’ll do it” only applies in one direction, it seems, when it comes to the Obama administration.

  64. Jenos Idanian says:

    Let me put it simply: if Obama really wanted to close down Guantanamo, he had all the time he had and there would be no way for Congress to keep him from doing so — especially a Congress where his party held both Houses for the first two years, and still holds the Senate. Since it’s still in business, it is literally continuing at his pleasure.

  65. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Closing Guantanamo the issue of the Obama presidency in your mind is it?

  66. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Going from issue to different issue where the Dems suck isn’t doing much for your argument, because in almost all those cases, the GOP is worse.

    ** Closing Guantanamo? Mitt “let’s double Guantanamo” Romney is the likely nominee.
    ** Indefinite detention? The GOP is more supportive of this
    ** Libya? Already pointed out the even more pitiful response by the GOP here.
    ** Recess appointments? At worst a predictable response to the GOP obstruction
    ** Auto industry bailout? Seemed to work out ok…

    Why the continued harping on how bad Obama and the Dems are on these issues, without once showing how Romney or Gingrich are better? Without the second part, your complaints are meaningless.

  67. Jenos Idanian says:

    The point of bringing up Guantanamo is not to debate the issue, but to bring up the laughable notion that Obama’s signing statement on the detention of American citizens is in any way reassuring. It is simply one example of the long list of promises he’s broken since he ran, including the “I’ll take public funding for my campaign.”

    My own opinion of Guantanamo is irrelevant here; what’s important is that Obama ran and ran hard on closing it down, and has instead kept it open. I put as much faith in his honoring his signing statement as I do in his pledge to close it down.

  68. mattb says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    Let me put it simply: you don’t understand the office of the presidency (or believe it to have far more power than you think it does).

    Obama did break that promise. Without a doubt. He should never have promised it in the first place. You can either assume he was (a) naive, (b) foolish that he didn’t do the due diligence to ensure that congress and the states would go along with it, or (c) pandering.

    I tend to think that this was a case of (a) and a bit of (b). In that way it was’t all that much different than GWB’s three second term epic policy defeats: (a) Social Security Reform, (b) Immigration Reform and (c) Harriet Meyers. Especially in cases B and C, the fact was that he was done in by his own party far before if ever got the democrats.

    The president, does not have the unilateral power, in this case to close Guantanamo — especially if they are choosing not to release all of the prisoners.

  69. bandit says:

    @Hey Norm:

    Lunatic h8r alert! Romney get’s shot! Hardy-har-har!!

  70. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, are you really that stupid, or that committed a hack?

    Are they covering-up stuff? I guess they could be. It is an embarrasment.

    A top Justice Department official took the Fifth before Congress instead of testifying about Fast and Furious. The only Justice Department official to be disciplined so far was the whistle-blower. Several other involved parties got promotions and/or transfers that would make it very convenient to keep them silent. The “botched plan” to track the guns never existed — the guns were provided to the cartels, tracked to the Mexican border, and then the Obama administration waved bye-bye as they went off to kill Mexicans by the hundreds.

    The plan was never “botched” — it was executed exactly as designed. The question is not “who scrweed up,” but “who set up this plan to just give guns to the Mexican cartels with zero provisions to follow and recover the guns before they were used to kill people.”

  71. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I got news from you. Sometimes presidents DONT deliver on every single one of their promises.

  72. @Jenos Idanian:
    Yeah… as i said, I’m not all that familiar with F&F.

    But I’m familiar enough to know that your brief version of it is a bit skewed to the right.
    The “botched plan” to track the guns never existed — the guns were provided to the cartels, tracked to the Mexican border, and then the Obama administration waved bye-bye as they went off to kill Mexicans by the hundreds.

    Do you really believe this?
    That there was a plan, hatched in the White house Oval office, to explicitly kill hundreds of Mexicans?
    Or do you think it was a botched, under regulated, stupid idea by some bureaucratic LEO to for a way to trace guns and get to the cartels?
    I’ll spot you that Obama and Justice were way too hands off, and that’s wrong, I’ll also spot you the they are covering their ass so to not look bad.

    The plan was never “botched” — it was executed exactly as designed. The question is not “who scrweed up,” but “who set up this plan to just give guns to the Mexican cartels with zero provisions to follow and recover the guns before they were used to kill people.”

    Again, you think Obama designed and approved this plan?
    That this is Obama’s Iran-Contra?
    In fact, I kinda agree: This is about as bad as we are going to get from him, I think.
    Which is a hell of a lot better than we are used to.

  73. An Interested Party says:

    It’s rather telling that Jenos Idanian refuses to discuss the correct idea that on many of the things he/she is criticizing the President for, neither Romney or Gingrich would reverse any of that, on the contrary, they would do far more…it is sad that choosing the president is, in some ways, a “lesser of two evils” argument, but there we are…

  74. Brummagem Joe says:

    “It’s rather telling that Jenos Idanian refuses to discuss the correct”

    Chronic ODS?

  75. David M says:

    I’m also thinking it’s a near certainty that if Obama had closed Guantanamo and ignored the objections by Congress that we’d be hearing Jenos complain about executive overreach and how we didn’t elect a dictator. We’ve seen time after time that today’s GOP is opposed to whatever liberals support, updated daily. (paraphrased)

  76. Jenos Idanian says:

    @doubter4444: Now that, sir, was some truly stupendous selective editing. First you imply that I said the Obama administration was behind the Fast and Furious plan, then specifically quote where I said that identifying who came up with the plan was a top priority.

    We don’t know enough yet, thanks to the Obama administration stonewalling and outright lying thus far, but there is some interesting circumstantial evidence. Such as Obama’s pledge to gun control groups to work “under the radar” to increase gun control laws. Such as an ATF official calling for tougher gun control laws and specifically citing the ATF-authorized “straw purchases” from Fast and Furious as evidence of the problem. And now, a high-ranking Justice Department official taking the Fifth before Congress when asked about his performance of his duties.

    I’m not jumping to any conclusions here. To steal a line, though, “I didn’t jump to conclusions. I took a small step, and conclusions there were.” I’d dearly love to hear an alternate explanation for Fast and Furious (and other, similar programs we’re starting to hear about), but thus far all we’re getting from the Obama administration is positively Nixonian.

  77. David M says:

    Knowing that the Phoenix office of the ATF conducted a similar operations in 2006 and 2007 seems point to incompetence / stupidity rather than some grand conspiracy. Besides, the supposed goals of this conspiracy don’t even make sense, so it’s likely to end up a very minor scandal if anything.

  78. Rob in CT says:

    You still haven’t provided anything to support the idea that electing Gingrich or Romney would be an improvement on any of these issues.

    You’re mad as hell and you’re not gonna take it anymore, so you’ll vote for guys who are flat-out saying they will double-down on the stuff you’re mad about?

  79. Tillman says:

    @john personna: Thank you.

    @Hey Norm: Y’see, I actually agree with you completely on the PPACA. I’m just saying that while acknowledging its cost-increase-limiting provisions are somewhat untested, especially on a national level. If there’s going to be a scandal, it might involve the healthcare reform, which, to a Fox News-saturated mind, was rammed down the throat of the country and is tyrannical government at its worst.

    Libya I have strong Constitutional reservations on, but Congress did do nothing. I’m just saying political opponents will conveniently forget to tell the whole truth on it, and blame the President only.

  80. John D'Geek says:


    Libya I have strong Constitutional reservations on

    Oh, it was perfectly legal. I have moral reservations, mostly related to the lack of action in other places that desperately need it, but it was perfectly legal.

    You see, our President simply supported our allies in the exact manner that the Congressionally
    Approved Treaties said we would. Annoying, but yeah … all the President has to do to fully, legally go to war is get one of our allies involved first.

    I think I’m going to call that “getting your wars pre-approved” strategy.

  81. Jenos Idanian says:

    @John D’Geek: Oh, it was perfectly legal. I have moral reservations, mostly related to the lack of action in other places that desperately need it, but it was perfectly legal.

    Especially after Obama ruled that the War Powers Act doesn’t apply when he says it wasn’t “hostilities,” but “kinetic military action.” And if that had failed, Obama simply could have ruled the War Powers Act — that Senator Obama supported — was unconstitutional.

    Hell, if the president can declare when Congress is in recess or in session, why can’t he also rule on the constitutionality of laws? After all, he was a Constitutional Law lecturer!

  82. Jenos Idanian says:

    @David M: Here’s one significant difference from then to now: then, the US cooperated with the Mexican government, but when they failed we dropped it. Now, we didn’t bother to tell them; the plan simply was to give the guns to the Cartels and drop it.

    And that’s exactly what happened.

    Let me repeat: Operation Fast And Furious was not a “botched” operation. It went off precisely as planned.

    And at least several hundred people have been murdered so far, including a US Border Patrol agent. Because the plan went off precisely as planned.