What Exactly Would Obama Do With A Second Term?

The President has yet to tell us what he would do with a Second Term.

I’ve just gotten around to reading a post that Ezra Klein published last week in which he brings up a point that many commentators on both the left and the right have raised during the course of this General Election campaign. Namely, what exactly does Barack Obama intend to do with a second term:

This U.S. presidential election has come down to a candidate without real policies against a candidate without a compelling vision.

Republican nominee Mitt Romney can tell you exactly what he wants to do, but barely a word about how he’ll do it. President Barack Obama can’t describe what he wants to achieve, but he can tell you everything about how he’ll get it done. At this point, Romney and Obama are running almost perfectly opposite campaigns.

For Obama, this is a striking change. His 2008 campaign was all bold vision and grand plans. He wanted to change Washington and pass a universal health-care plan by the end of his first term. He pushed a cap-and-trade plan to slow carbon emissions and promised immigration reform, an end to the war in Iraq and a post-partisan era that would both reignite citizen control over government and make them proud of the results.


I went back and read the transcript, canceling out the relative effects of the candidates’ stage presence. On paper, Obama came off, if anything, a bit worse. It is startling how little he said about his agenda and how little passion he evinced for any cause other than stopping Romney. On the heels of a workmanlike convention speech that was particularly lacking in what used to be called “the vision thing,” his debate performance speaks of a deeper problem. Obama, at the moment, doesn’t have anything particularly inspiring to say.

It might be that polls and focus groups have given the Obama campaign reason to retreat from presenting a bold agenda for a second term. But the dulling of the vision has led to the dulling of the candidate. A quick glance at the polls suggests voters don’t seem to like that much, either.

Joe Klein at Time had similar thoughts:

His campaign staff has been brilliant when it comes to painting Romney as a hapless plutocrat but has been AWOL when it comes to promoting a second-term vision for the President. The only policy proposal I can recall in his debate performance and convention speech was to add 100,000 math and science teachers. How lame and formulaic, especially for a politician sensitive to the empty platitudes of his trade. Now that Mitt Romney has established himself as something other than an automaton, Barack Obama is going to have to come clean, descend from the mountaintop and make his best case for keeping the job.

This was a question that the President completely failed to touch upon in the October 3rd debate, and which neither he nor his campaign have spent time talking about either before or since. By contrasts, as Ezra Klein noted above, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and their campaign has done a fairly good job of at least laying out a vision of what a Romney Administration would do with the four years that the voters might give them, although they have been fairly light when it comes to the details. It’s an odd juxtaposition given the fact that the entirety of Obama’s 2008 campaign, from the day he announced his candidacy to the day he gave his victory speech in Grant Park on Election Night 2008, was based on a broadly stated vision of what an Obama Administration would look like. In many ways, he’s lived up to that vision, and in many other important respects he has failed miserably. However, at least he was offering something to the voters.

When Bill Clinton and Al Gore were running for re-election in 1996, they campaigned on the idea of a “Bridge To The 21st Century.” While it ended up becoming an over-used theme by the campaign, it was part of a broader vision of what a second Clinton Administration would look like. George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan also laid out, at least in broad strokes, what they would do in a second term. For some reason, though, we’re not really getting any of that from the Obama Campaign this year, and even people on the left like Ezra Klein and Joe Klein are noticing it.

Shortly after the first debate, Michael Tomasky asked if the President even wants to win this year:

The Atlantic‘s Garance Franke-Ruta raised the question right after the debate about whether Obama’s heart was still in it. Comparing today’s Obama to the guy we watched the first time he ran, she wrote: “Whoever Obama was when he was elected president has been seared away by two active wars, the more free-ranging fight against al-Qaeda, the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, and the endless grinding fights with Washington Republicans—and even, I am sure, activists in his own party. His supporters keep wanting Obama to be who he was in 2008. But that’s not who he is anymore.”


[M]ainly it’s that the reality of his term is undoubtedly so different, and so much worse, than the presidency he envisioned for himself. There’s no doubt that he did envision himself as transformational. Almost everything that had happened in his life before becoming president—succeeding at everything, often leaving observers in awe of him—clearly suggested to him that he’d conquer the presidency. He also believed, I think really genuinely believed, that he was and could be a post-partisan figure. He thought this because he wasn’t a product of the ’60s, and he said so explicitly on occasion, noting at one point in 2008 that we didn’t need to “relitigate the ’60s” anymore.

Much of this I ascribe to the panic you saw on the left after the President’s disastrous performance in the debate two weeks ago. However, it does bring up an interesting point in relation to the fact that we still don’t have a good idea of what exactly the President wants to do with a Second Term. If the President really wants to keep the job, then why isn’t he telling us what he wants to do with it during his final four years? Isn’t that sort of a relevant question that voters deserve an answer to?

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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. Geek, Esq. says:

    It was this lack of a vision for a second term that caused me to panic. Not the body language or lack of energy or not calling out Romney’s misstatements.

    It was the fact that he had nothing interesting to say.

    How is it possible that you’re running for President (incumbent or not) and don’t have a big picture to offer voters?

    His answer on “what is your view on the role of the federal government” was a Bushesque word salad.

    The first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe. That’s its most basic function. And as commander in chief, that is something that I’ve worked on and thought about every single day that I’ve been in the Oval Office.

    But I also believe that government has the capacity — the federal government has the capacity to help open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed. Look, the genius of America is the free enterprise system, and freedom, and the fact that people can go out there and start a business, work on an idea, make their own decisions.

    But as Abraham Lincoln understood, there are also some things we do better together.

    So in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, let’s help to finance the Transcontinental Railroad. Let’s start the National Academy of Sciences. Let’s start land grant colleges, because we want to give these gateways of opportunity for all Americans, because if all Americans are getting opportunity, we’re all going to be better off. That doesn’t restrict people’s freedom; that enhances it.

    And so what I’ve tried to do as president is to apply those same principles. And when it comes to education, what I’ve said is we’ve got to reform schools that are not working. We use something called Race to the Top. Wasn’t a top-down approach, Governor. What we’ve said is to states, we’ll give you more money if you initiate reforms. And as a consequence, you had 46 states around the country who have made a real difference.

    But what I’ve also said is let’s hire another hundred thousand math and science teachers to make sure we maintain our technological lead and our people are skilled and able to succeed. And hard-pressed states right now can’t all do that. In fact, we’ve seen layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers over the last several years, and Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. I do, because I think that that is the kind of investment where the federal government can help. It can’t do it all, but it can make a difference, and as a consequence, we’ll have a better-trained workforce, and that will create jobs, because companies want to locate in places where we’ve got a skilled workforce.

    His answer was “spend money on stuff everyone likes” and “freedom.”

    Painfully apparent he hadn’t given the matter much thought. How is that possible?

  2. BigFire says:

    Well, for starter, does he ever intend to ever pass a budget? 4 years running, zero budget.

  3. legion says:

    There are several reasons here. Number one is that the tsunami of lies and BS from the Romney campaign take up a full time job just to catalog, let alone try to counter. There’s not a lot of time left to talk about next year when you have to spend ten minutes just listing all the lies Romney told in the last five minutes.

    Secondly, what Obama _wants_ to do in a second term is less important that what he’ll _be able_ to do – that’s highly dependent on what Congress looks like after the elections. If, FSM forbid, the Dems lose both the House and the Senate, it’s pretty much a given that not one single Presidential proposal will get a legit vote. Obama won’t be able to go to the bathroom without an Executive Order.

  4. Davebo says:

    Well, for starter, does he ever intend to ever pass a budget? 4 years running, zero budget.

    You’re joking right? Or are you simply unaware of how the budget process works? How exactly would he go about passing a budget?

    It’s true that you cannot filibuster a budget resolution in the Senate, because the Budget Act provides special rules for consideration of a budget resolution, including a time limit on debate. So the Senate can pass a resolution with only a majority vote. However, the resolution does not take effect when the Senate passes it. It takes effect in one of two ways: if the House and Senate pass an identical resolution, usually in the form of a conference report; or if the Senate passes a separate Senate Resolution (as opposed to a concurrent resolution, which is what a budget resolution is) that says the House is “deemed” to have agreed to the budget resolution passed by the Senate. But there are no special procedures for the simple Senate Resolution required by this second, “deeming” process, so it is subject to the unlimited debate allowed on almost everything in the Senate. If you do not have the support of 60 Senators to invoke cloture and end a filibuster, or prevent a filibuster from even starting (because everyone knows 60 Senators support cloture), you cannot pass such a deeming resolution in the Senate.Because its rules are different, the House with a simple majority can pass a resolution deeming that the House and Senate have agreed to the House resolution so that it can take effect. This means the allocations in the resolution, such as for appropriations, are in effect in the House and anybody can raise a point-of-order against legislation that would cause a committee to exceed its allocation. But this is for purposes of enforcement in the House only. What the House does has no effect whatsoever on the Senate or its budget enforcement. And vice versa, if the Senate deems that its budget resolution has been agreed to.

    With the exception of reconciliation legislation, it effectively takes 60 votes to consider any legislation in the Senate so it really does not matter whether the resolution has been adopted; if you have 60, you can consider the legislation, if you don’t, you can’t. The bottom line is the budget process set out in the Budget Act works pretty well when the Congress can agree on budget policies. When they cannot, no process in the world can make things work smoothly, but Congress muddles through and does what absolutely has to be done (like keeping the government from shutting down or defaulting on the debt). Not having a budget resolution in place is a symptom of the inability to reach agreement – not the cause of Congress not being able to accomplish things.

    Now obviously you’ll get an entirely different excuse from Townhall.com or CNS News. But that’s because they’ve gotten so used to folks like you accepting their BS that they take it for granted now. Or perhaps they always have.

  5. Geek, Esq. says:


    There will be no second term unless you tell voters what you want to do with it. Not what you think you can get past Congress, but what your agenda is going to be.

  6. Lit3Bolt says:

    Good insight, Doug. This is a problem for Obama and Democrats.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see how it’s any worse than the Republican position at ANY term as President, to wit:

    1. Cut taxes.
    2. Cut welfare.
    3. Increase corporate subsidies, charters, and military spending.
    4. Punt every social issue to the courts.
    5. Deregulate all industry. (See 3.)
    6. Rape environment. (See 5.)
    7. Rape women with magic dowsing rods of Shame (patent pending).
    8. Nuke Iran, which will bring Peace to the Middle East for All Time and Ensure Israel’s Safety For All Eternity.
    9. Act surprised when deficit hits record levels, even adjusted for inflation.
    10. Lie so much that Zombie Orwell blushes.

    And yes, I condemn Al Sharpton for all of his past remarks, so you have to take me seriously.

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    However, it does bring up an interesting point in relation to the fact that we still don’t have a good idea of what exactly the President wants to do with a Second Term.

    I dunno, I just always assumed it would be setting up FEMA re-education camps throughout the Midwest…..

  8. Geek, Esq. says:


    In a race between a candidate with no ideas and a candidate with really horrible ideas, bet on the latter.

  9. wr says:

    This just seems like the dumbest possible complaint in the world to me. We all know what Obama wants to do in the second term:

    Continue to repair the economy.
    Implement the ACA
    Nominate centrist judges to the Supreme Court
    Continue to wipe out Al Qaeda

    He wants to keep doing the same things he’s been trying to do throughout his first term — it’s not like this is any great mystery, despite the willfull stupidity of our pundit class.

    Maybe if the Republicans hadn’t blocked almost all of his initiatives and he had managed to get America back to work, it would be reasonable to start demanding a bold new vision. But there’s a lot of the old vision that still needs implementing. Should he abandon his goals because a handful of political writers are bored unless they get constant stimulation?

    What a crock.

  10. PD Shaw says:

    Obama got almost all of his agenda completed in the first two years. I believe he has said as much; if not Rachel Maddow has argued he got 85% of his agenda in the first two years, and the distinguished bloggers at OTB were generally of the view that most of his domestic agenda was accomplished in the first two years. I assume we are left with immigration reform and Obama’s twelve-year old critique of the Bush tax cuts remaining. That’s the agenda, plus not rolling back the first two years.

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    If Romney wants a first term he should be telling us what he is going to do that doesn’t include unicorns.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    By contrasts, as Ezra Klein noted above, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and their campaign has done a fairly good job of at least laying out a vision of what a Romney Administration would do with the four years that the voters might give them, although they have been fairly light when it comes to the details.

    Yep, and it is all laid out here Just click on the button..

  13. David M says:

    PD Shaw and wr pretty much nail what the agenda will be for the next term, and it’s not a real mystery. Political types probably want to hear some new grand overarching policy goals, but they should be ignored, while Obama explains how continuing to implement his agenda will benefit the country and average Americans.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    I think it’s a fair criticism. Mr. Obama has not made a positive case for why he wants another four years. Will we get tax reform? Will we get immigration reform?

    Of course this goes to the power of Republican nihilism. Whatever Obama says he wants, McConnell and Boehner will pop up like jacks-in-the-box and announce as “dead on arrival.”

    The GOP by refusing to govern, by putting its own power ahead of every consideration, and with a contempt for patriotic norms not equalled since the Civil War, has stymied any effort to move forward.

    The temptation will be to do the same if we lose the White House and maintain control of the Senate. But I doubt we will. Democrats still put country ahead of party. We have not yet sunk to the level of Republicans, thankfully.

  15. Tillman says:

    What does Obama want to do in a second term? Probably everything he wanted to do in the first term that was obstructed by Republicans.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    …plus not rolling back the first two years.

    Considering that the Republicans will probably retain control of the House and will still have the filibuster in the Senate, not rolling back the first two years alone is enough of an agenda and certainly enough of a reason to vote for the President…the stakes are high enough that the pretty words aren’t needed anymore…

  17. Tsar Nicholas says:

    For the election itself this is a non-issue. If you’re voting for Obama you’re doing so by virtue of demographic identity and not much to nothing else. Obama could declare that he intends to spend the next four years conducting seances by burning stacks of hundreds in the Oval Office and virtually 100% of the people who’ll be voting for him in any event will go ahead and still vote for him. That’s the impact of politics by race, gender, age, union status, sources of income, etc.

    As far as what Obama actually would do with a 2nd term the answer is the same things he’s been doing since Jan. 2011. Obviously he won’t be able to push through any Democrat legislation. Card check is dead. Cap & trade is dead. Not a single Democrat legislative initiative would pass. Nearly all of them would be DOA. If Harry Reid hangs on as Senate Majority Leader we might even go another four years without a budget. On the foreign policy front Obama will keep practicing the empty chair approach. Why not? Granted, his team will continue shooting missiles up Jihadi arseholes from drones, but if you’re a diplomat stationed at an embassy somewhere then it’s probably a good idea to make sure your life insurance policy has been updated.

    That doesn’t mean, however, it’s irrelevant whether Obama stays or goes. There remains the matter of the federal judiciary and especially the SCOTUS. Ginsburg could go any day. Breyer, Kennedy and Scalia all are well into their 70’s. There could be 2-3 vacancies over the next four years. If Obama still is Prez then those vacancies will be filled by Sotomayor and Kagan-style jurists. If Romney wins they’ll be filled probably with Kennedy-style jurists or with a stroke of luck Alito-style jurists.

  18. legion says:

    @Geek, Esq.: Ummm… no. There are times when you can get away with the “devil you know vs the devil you don’t know” argument, but this ain’t exactly it. There are things Obama has gotten right this term, and things he’s gotten wrong. I (and anyone else who’s actually been paying attention (like @Tillman) know that he’ll continue trying to do the things the GOP blocked for the last 4 years.

    But even if I was some sort of fresh-out-of-a-4-year-coma kind of undecided voter, I’d know who to vote for based on one aspect: Literally every single thing I care about in this country is absolutely guaranteed to be made worse, if not destroyed outright, by a Romney presidency. And that’s not just based on Romney’s position-of-the-day, that’s based on the GOP’s explicit platform, form the Oval Office on down to city councils. Every single thing I love about this country is what they want to take away. A lot of other people recognize that too. Latino voters do. African-American voters do. Female voters are figuring it out, and so are the working poor Romney built his fortune off of.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    For the election itself this is a non-issue. If you’re voting for Obama you’re doing so by virtue of demographic identity and not much to nothing else.

    Oh? Which demographic requires me to vote for Mr. Obama?

  20. mattb says:

    The question of laying out the next four years is an interesting one. That said, any anyone remember what GWB laid out for the next four years beyond continuing to prosecute the War on Terror? Social Security Reform? Immigration? That didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

    What about Clinton or Regan for that matter?

  21. Tillman says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Obama could declare that he intends to spend the next four years conducting seances by burning stacks of hundreds in the Oval Office and virtually 100% of the people who’ll be voting for him in any event will go ahead and still vote for him.

    Of course I’d vote for him! But not because I’m a young white lower-upper-class male. Anyone with enough crazy to set fire to stacks of hundred dollar bills in the Oval Office just to communicate with the dead gets my vote, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise.

    I have been disappointed repeatedly by the sanity of our elected officials.

  22. john personna says:

    Mr. Obama is offering nothing big, nor grand, nor scary.

    In one sense that is a defensive strategy against Romney’s weak offense. Let Romney crash against the castle walls, and the castle will stand.

    But on the other hand it is the ultimate moderate policy. It is not a grand ideological initiative. It is governance for a new normal.

    So of course I, the centrist and moderate, am pleased. That’s by definition. I’d only be displeased if I was someone who wanted a grand reactionary (right) or revolutionary (left) change, starting in January 2013.

  23. bk says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Beyond stupid.

  24. john personna says:

    (Note that when people on the right want a grand plan from Obama, they want something too far left for the electorate. Their concern is not altruistic.)

  25. Geek, Esq. says:


    You’ve figured that out, but most voters haven’t and won’t.

    Telling them “more of the same” just will not fly.

  26. Mr. Replica says:

    I think that Obama in tonight’s debate will make the same case he has been making this whole campaign. That we should not change course, that we need to keep moving forward. Just because Republicans think that Obama is moving us in the wrong direction, does not make it so. Their response has always been Obama is wrong, even when the facts do not meet with their supposed reality.
    If it’s the economy, stupid! Than telling Americans that Obama has failed, when we are pretty much back to where we were before the crash of 2008(even with unprecedented obstructionism), means it’s a lie.
    While Obama does need to lay out a plan for the next four years, he really only needs to say that since it took him four years to get us back to where we were before the great recession, then after the next four years we will probably be an in even better shape. With healthcare coverage for all, with pre-existing conditions covered, with children on their parents healthcare plans till 26, and all the other good things that come with the PPACA, THAT EVEN ROMNEY SAYS HE WANTS TO KEEP.

    Even if Obama’s plans for his second term are pretty much the same as the last four + some new ideas, he really needs to make the case to the people that the only way he is going to get any of it done, will be for them to elect him a more favorable Congress. One that won’t filibuster everything in the Senate, one that will actually put up to vote bills in the House that don’t include things attached to it that will kill the bill outright.
    And when he tries to make the case for all this, HE NEEDS to make sure to paint Romney as the neo-con that he actually is. Even if Romney has zero specifics for Obama to take apart, Obama needs to make it clear to everyone that more unfunded tax cuts, more chicken-hawks in charge, and more defense spending is exactly what caused the deficit, the Iraq war, and the situation he had to clean up when he got into office. Also add in that what Romney proposes is more supply-side economics and austerity. Two failed ideologies that will cause things to get worse.
    Obviously tho, since Obama is no Bill Clinton, this sort of argument will be a real challenge for him to pull off.

    A little side note. It seems the reason why Romney is favorable is because he is perceived to be a successful businessman. However, according to David Stockman, a former Reagan admin Budget Director, Romney is not a businessman, he is a successful financial speculator, a vulture.
    Most of us here knew that already.

  27. john personna says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    You’ve figured that out, but most voters haven’t and won’t.

    Telling them “more of the same” just will not fly.

    Are you a poll denialist then? Obama has been slipping, but Nate Silver has NEVER put the odds against him. You seem to be living in a flipped world, one in which Obama’s strategy explains why he (not Romney) trails in electoral votes.

  28. john personna says:

    (You know, a staple in old MGM swordplay classics was some ruse to get the secure defender to leave his castle and fight on the enemy’s terms. A cavalry charge for glory! That is what the trailing side wants here. They want Obama to name something they can fight more easily than his quiet defense.)

  29. john personna says:

    BTW, classic triple comment …

    Something bothered me in the VP debate. That was when Ryan said “we are going in the wrong direction,” and Biden responded “we are adding jobs,” only to have Ryan repeat “the wrong direction.”

    What part of “direction” doesn’t Ryan understand?

    The other direction would be to lose jobs, more jobs, every month.

  30. grumpy realist says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: I’m voting for Obama because I am a scientist and see no reason to vote for a political party that ignores science, panders to creationists, and ignores all data about global warming. China will be clapping its hands with glee if Romney gets elected.

  31. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: Isn’t it interesting how everyone who votes for a Democrat is compelled to do so out of demographics, but those who vote for Republicans are completely unswayed by anything except the pearly vision of America.

  32. Geek, Esq. says:

    @john personna:

    Romney and Obama need Ohio equally. The status in Ohio is Obama barely ahead, with movement in Romney’s direction.

    Obama’s already blown his leads in Florida, Virginia, Colorado, and New Hampshire.

    Ohio is not some magic land that’s immune to the trend playing out in every other state.

    Tonight is Obama’s last chance to turn that around. He’s shown no sign of having it in him this year.

  33. john personna says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    As of this moment the polls show Obama improvement. The trend is his friend.

    I guess where you are coming from is that you know better than polls, and better than anyone who thinks a steady hand on the tiller will see us through the storm?

    I think that might be a bit “flighty” for my taste.

    BTW, I would not expect Obama to make a “major new initiative” in this area, but he is in stronger ground for Ohio and etc because:

    New evidence shows that there is indeed a link between offshoring and relative declines in the wages of middle-skilled workers. However, it also shows that offshoring has had a positive effect in terms of increasing the demand for workers in the most highly skilled, highly paid jobs. Given the benefits of offshoring, the policy message this election season should not be to try and restrict offshoring, but rather to find ways to match workers to the areas where labour demand is growing. This paper suggests that a focus on training workers to perform more highly skilled, non-routine and communication intensive occupations is one component of that policy.

    Tell your friends. Offshoring does matter.

    (as some of us with globalization hobby horses have been arguing in these pages for years)

  34. mantis says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    He’s shown no sign of having it in him this year.

    Bullshit. Concern troll.

  35. Geek, Esq. says:

    @john personna:

    The polls on a national level have shown the race stabilizing somewhat with Obama stuck at 47% (a really bad place for an incumbent to be).

    In state races, Romney is still making steady gains not only in places like Florida but Pennsylvania.

    As voters make up their minds (that already hadn’t) they’re almost all going to Romney.

    To put it another way–the race is going exactly according to plan for Romney.

  36. Geek, Esq. says:


    When’s the last time Obama made a forceful and convincing case for his re-election other than on the campaign stump before a cheering crowd?

    Sorry, but this guy has never won a tough fight against a Republican. He beat Hillary, but that was a primary fight, and he was actually trailing McLame before Lehman melted down and the whole “suspend my campaign” farce.

    For the first time two weeks ago, he was face to face with a Republican who brought the fight to him, and he faded and withered before the nation’s eyes.

  37. David M says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    Bullshit. Concern troll.

  38. Geek, Esq. says:

    @David M:

    Do you think Obama’s numbers in Ohio are going to improve, get worse, or stay exactly the same over the next three weeks?

  39. David M says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    Assuming he shows up at the debate, they’ll probably stay the same or improve.

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    To put it another way–the race is going exactly according to plan for Romney.

    To put it another way, Americans are stupid. For what it is worth Geek, I fear you are closer to the truth than I wish.

  41. john personna says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    Help me understand something. Where do you see yourself on the left-right continuum? Where is Obama’s problem on that continuum?

    See, the problem with “forceful cases” is that they tend to be ideological. I note above that they must be, right, since “moderate” is by definition not forceful or surprising. Moderate is boring.

    So, where are you, where do you think mainstream voters are, and how do you see a plan to appeal to them?

  42. stonetools says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    They’ll improve after Obama wins this debate. Beat it, troll.

  43. bk says:

    My guess is that just as “Joe the Plumber” is to plumbers, “Geek, Esq.” is to lawyers. In other words, neither of them are.

  44. Drew says:

    Obama’s second term? Let’s see. Well 400 rounds of golf and 200 fundraisers in the first term. That suggests 600 rounds of golf.

    But wait, he would want to fundraise for a successor. Let’s call that 100.

    So 500 rounds of golf. There we have it.

    Oh, and 1 or 2 meetings with the jobs counsel. Appearances, you know…..

  45. David M says:


    And if the result of that is implementing Obamacare and preserving Medicare and Social Security, I’d call that a smashing success compared to the likely alternative.

  46. Dazedandconfused says:

    All anyone has to do is listen to any one of those speeches he’s been giving on CSPAN, Doug, if they really are looking for what his plan is.

    If the talking heads on TV meditate almost exclusively on poll numbers and their own navels these days.

  47. stonetools says:

    Obama’s second term:

    Avoiding the fiscal cliff.
    Another try at the Jobs Act.
    Another try at the Dream Act.
    Keeping the sanctions pressure on Iran
    Implementing Obamacare.
    Implementing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
    Completing withdrawal from Afghanistan.
    Trying for immigration reform.
    Another try at cap and trade.
    Alleviating the housing crisis.

    That’s enough to be going on with.

  48. michael reynolds says:


    Romney’s first term? Tax cuts for you and me. A huge run-up of the deficit. Defense spending even the Pentagon doesn’t want. An attack on abortion. An attempt to roll back gay rights, trashing gay men and women in uniform. War with Iran.

    Oh, and lots of time off to attend to his duties as a member of a church that was officially racist until 1978 and believes a New York con man received golden tablets from an angel with wonderfully apt name “Moroni” but somehow, er, lost them, uh, yeah, that’s it, so that’s why no one else can see them. That and the handjobs for Bibi Netanyahu ought to pretty much cover his first year.

  49. Clanton says:

    Leadership: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Rusk, McNamara, Humphrey, Haig, Goldwater, Kissinger. What else could be said?

  50. Dazedandconfused says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I want to know what MItt’s current plan for torture is.

    Last time Mitt discussed torture that I recall was when he lectured John McCain on the subject. I suspect Mitt still believes in it’s use.

  51. Dazedandconfused says:


    What is it you are trying to say?

    Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Franco were all strong leaders. So was Jim Jones.

  52. Andre Kenji says:

    My biggest problem with Obama is that he unwilling to take hard choices. C´mon, we are talking about a country that faces four consecutive years where the public debt is bigger than one trillion(That´s larger than the GDP of every country in the world, with the exception of 15 of them), that has a working force that is expensive when compared to countries in the Emerging World and that´s less educated when compared to the countries in the Developed world. It´s also a country that´s aging, pretty fast.

    There is no space for great visions. The only thing that should be acceptable would be a president willing to FACE these problems.

  53. rudderpedals says:


    What else could be said?

    History died in 1976?

  54. Wr says:

    @Andre Kenji: shockingly, not everyone agrees that the debt is anywhere near our biggest problem…

  55. john personna says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Do you really understand US parliamentary procedure?

    Even if election dynamics changed to encourage honestly, the winner would rapidly hit a wall, in which “promises” meet a 2/3rds voting requirement.

  56. grumpy realist says:

    @Andre Kenji: The problem is very few Americans would vote for a candidate who would point out those problems. We continually chase after candidates who tell us what we want to hear, rather than what we need to hear.

  57. anjin-san says:

    What else could be said?

    That some of the names on that list indicate you don’t study history in any depth?

  58. David M says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    My biggest problem with Obama is that he unwilling to take hard choices. C´mon, we are talking about a country that faces four consecutive years where the public debt is bigger than one trillion

    And which candidate is promising a 20% tax cut and wants to increase defense spending? Being willing to make hard choices is a relative comparison.

  59. Jc says:

    Good point, Michael. Mitt wants to give $2 Mil to Defense that they did not ask for while cutting from other agencies that could use it.

    As for the President. What more can he do? He did tax cuts and tax credits for individuals and businesses, he bailed out states budget shortfalls (stimulus) and they still had to cut, he did HARP, HAMP and other attempts to shore up housing, you have zero interest rates and cheap fed borrowing, you have record low mortgage rates, you had some meager infrastructure spending and grants to energy businesses, you had bank bailouts and auto bailouts, you propped up F&F and bailed out AIG, you have QE1, QE2 and QE3 trying to grease the engine – Corps have tons of cash on their books, you were forced into a dumb debt ceiling deal, you deal with people who would not do a 1 to 10 revenue for spending exchange, you passed legislation to help vets get jobs, you proposed more spending on infrastructure to create jobs, but got denied.

    People hate you because they think you are growing government, yet they are asking the government to solve the employment situation they created.

    Short of writing down all of populations massive debt load, what else can he propose? Another tax cut that would do very little for the majority of people and sprinkle fairy dust saying that tax would help grow the economy and therefore reduce future deficits? We did that already in the 2000’s with full employment and it didn’t work.

  60. David M says:


    Housing and HAMP is one of the actual recovery problems for the Obama Administration , but I don’t see Mitt “just let the housing market hit bottom” Romney as much of an improvement there.

  61. Clanton says:

    HAMP: great idea, but just try getting the banks to let go of one red cent . They tightened up requirements so much that nothing is moving, very few are being helped. If you are one who has been helped through refinancing under the HAMP program, I would like to hear it. A program with no teeth or requirements. If you think HAMP will help you through a bank, you are wasting your time, forget it. Just more politics in an election time.

  62. michael reynolds says:

    Someone get Mr. Romney some salve, he’s gotta be sore after that butt reaming.

  63. Console says:

    Ironically enough, I find the question sort of vapid. It’s the type of question you get due to our political culture, but it has absolutely no bearing on our political system. The agency a president has is limited. What you want out of a president isn’t a transformational vision. You want a guy that isn’t going to shit the bed when two buildings get knocked down, or the south secedes or, or Germany takes over Europe etc. Presidents only get to do what they want when a crisis is happening. The real question is what will the candidates do if Israel and Iran come to a head. Or if Europe’s economy crashes, or if a major natural disaster hits.

    Looking for a presidential mr-fix-it… blah.

  64. michael reynolds says:


    Well, sure, but you’re talking about reality. This is politics.

  65. bill says:

    he’s already said he can’t work with congress and seeing as they’ll be republican for at least another 4 yrs i guess he’s relegated to doing not much……again!

  66. bill says:

    @Clanton: you left out obama, good move!

  67. al-Ameda says:


    Obama’s second term? Let’s see. Well 400 rounds of golf and 200 fundraisers in the first term. That suggests 600 rounds of golf.
    But wait, he would want to fundraise for a successor. Let’s call that 100.
    So 500 rounds of golf. There we have it.
    Oh, and 1 or 2 meetings with the jobs counsel. Appearances, you know…..

    Romney’s first term?
    400 trips up and down in the new car elevator in the Western White House, and 200 separate trips to the Western White House. that suggests at least 800 elevator sorties. But wait, Ann might want to use the car elevator too, that suggests a family total of at least 800 elevator sorties. So, round up – 1,000 elevator sorties while Mitt contemplates which of his statements he’s going backtrack on.

  68. Andre Kenji says:

    @john personna:

    Do you really understand US parliamentary procedure?

    Even if election dynamics changed to encourage honestly, the winner would rapidly hit a wall, in which “promises” meet a 2/3rds voting requirement.

    1-) I´m complaining that as *president* Obama does not even talk about anything that would requires sacrifices or hard choices. The whole idea of taxing the wealthy is incredibly lazy at that regard.

    My favorite modern US president is Eisenhower, so, it´s easy to understand what I´m defending.

    2-) On the other hand, I think that´s easy to understand why Obama does not have a bold vision for his second term and why Romney sounds as a phony when he tries to have a bold vision for his Presidency. There is no space for that, frankly.

    3-) Yes, I think that Romney is even worse than Obama on the matter of “hard choices”. I think that from a fiscal conservative point of view Romney is *really* bad. Kinda like Bush on Steroids.

  69. superdestroyer says:

    Maybe the problem with the Obama Administration along with all other politicians is that reality has jumped up and bit them in the ass. David Axelrod’s shtick is that that are no real winners and loser and everyone can get government goodies while others pay. In reality, there are always winners and losers and President Obama does not want to be responsible for some people losing.

  70. Clanton says:

    @stonetools: How about keeping the price of living at an affordable level by getting gas and food prices down?

  71. Wendilynn says:

    @wr: The only problem with blaming the republicans, is that the democrats were doing the same thing under Bush. When they took the Congress, they took at attitude that if anything was republican led, it died. Harry Reid won’t even allow republican led legislature to be debated much less voted on. So, obviously the other party is going to tantrum. THEN you had the tea party revolt in 2010 which just made the problem worse because the voters voted for “my way or the highway” candidates.

    Why voters think that they can put in these ideologues who can’t work with anyone and hope for change is beyond me.