$64,000 question: can Obama avoid becoming a lame-duck?

Nov 8, 2012

No shortage of advice for re-elected president as 'fiscal cliff' approaches and Wall St shows its lack of belief

THERE was no time for triumphalism yesterday as Barack Obama returned from his victory speech in Chicago to a bulging Oval Office in-tray and the grim reality that Wall Street had reacted to his win with its worst performance this year, the Dow Jones dropping by 312 points.

As he put it in his speech: "Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil."

Add to that implementing Obamacare, tackling climate change, dealing with Syria and Iran, and bringing down unemployment - all against the backdrop of political gridlock in Washington after the Republicans held on to their majority in the House of Representatives.

What the President is not lacking this morning is advice from political pundits on how to ensure his second-term legacy isn't that of the traditional 'lame duck'.

David Ignatius in the Washington Post says Obama should "begin by identifying a list of necessary and achievable goals, and then pursuing them with the unyielding manipulative skill of a Lyndon Johnson.”

On top of everyone's list is a budget deal, says Ignatius. This, he says, will require “changes in Social Security and Medicare that slow the growth of entitlement spending [and] reform of the tax code [to produce] a fairer and simpler system that raises revenue without limiting growth."

A Los Angeles Times editorial agrees that Obama needs to become more strategic, observing that "the current paralysis in Washington demands the kind of leadership that brings lawmakers out of their foxholes".

It continues: "On immigration, there's a seemingly unbridgeable divide over what to do about the millions of people who live here illegally. On climate change, there's no agreement on the existence of a problem, let alone how to solve it."

The president should make the most of the political capital gained through his re-election and spend it "by building bridges to the other side".

The President's hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, believes its' “the other side's” responsibility to help Obama out. Addressing the Republicans, the paper states: "Obama is your president for four more years. It is time to work with him on an agenda to revive this nation's economy and tame its debt. Work... with... him."

But the Tribune also urges the President to "listen... to this nation's employers. They do have a notion of what it will take to put the nation back to work. They have genuine fears... about the cost of your signature health care reform, fears about federal borrowing that now rises by $3 million every minute."

President Obama might prefer to read the London papers, which are generally more positive about his chances.

Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian believes Obama could defy political history, "reversing the usual order by achieving more in his second term than in his first.

"His healthcare reform... will now be implemented, which represents a legacy in itself. If he can somehow negotiate the looming fiscal cliff, bringing tax revenues and spending into balance, that too will endear him to posterity."

The Times editorial agrees that "the President is in a unique position — his talents and his ability to connect put him in the unique position — to persuade the new America to accept the obligations that their grandparents, initially unwillingly but ultimately with great bravery and vision, accepted.

However: "Obama won. Wall Street fell. The Republicans dug in for a fight. In Syria, the killing continues. And the scandals that have scuppered re-elected presidents — Iran-Contra, Monica, Katrina — hover like a perennial curse over the winner of 'four more years'."

Can it really be different this time?

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He already is a lame duck...

President Obama could do far worse than take a look at the life and works of Peoples' Tribune Tiberius Sempronius Graccus - the politician who (back in the second century BC) pretty much INVENTED "Yes, we can!" as a political slogan. When his political enemies blocked the legislation he was attempting to pass... he blocked theirs - ALL of theirs. And he threatened to keep on doing so until they allowed his act to pass. The question is, is being remembered as "The first black president" enough for Obama, or does he burn to be remembered simply as a GREAT president.... who happened to be Black?