|
|
|
|
Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Kevin Frisch: Obama — Coming to terms with a second term

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives.” This was way before reality TV. But it has been more or less true regarding second presidential terms.

    • email print
  • It’s too bad Barack Obama is compelled to run for a second term because, if history is any indication — and indicating is one of the things history does best, along with giving historians something to study — his second term will be even worse than his first.
    I know: Is that even possible?
    Well, sure it is. We could slip into that depression he’s been holding off. We could fail for three months to plug a leaking oil well that’s on land. He could win the Nobel Prize in physics and really give his critics ammunition for claiming he’s a favorite of foreigners.
    But given that his first term has been absent of regular highlights — other than the still-disputed health care law and bin Laden — Obama sort of has to run again if he wants to leave anything like a real legacy. And that’s too bad.
    F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives.” This was way before reality TV. But it has been more or less true regarding second presidential terms.
    One has to go back to the 1950s to find a chief executive whose second term went smoothly. Sure, Dwight D. Eisenhower endured a couple of recessions between 1957 and 1961, suffered the embarrassment of having the Russians beat us into orbit with Sputnik and had to compete with “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” to get his addresses televised.
    But Eisenhower also enforced school integration by sending the National Guard to Little Rock, Ark., admitted the final two states to our union and became, after Ulysses S. Grant, only the second Republican up to that time to be elected to and serve two successive terms. (Theodore Roosevelt served 7 1/2 years, but was elected only once, in 1904. William McKinley was elected twice but, like Republican Abraham Lincoln before him, was assassinated early in his second term. That’s our presidential trivia for today.)
    Since Ike passed the presidential baton to John F. Kennedy, second terms have been albatrosses for American presidents. Richard Nixon had Watergate. Ronald Reagan had Iran-contra. Bill Clinton had the Lewinsky impeachment. George W. Bush had Hurricane Katrina and the economic collapse. With the Iran hostage crisis, a stubborn recession and a national malaise, Jimmy Carter suffered the rarest of presidential setbacks: A second term during his first term.
    Of the other presidents since Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy never got the chance to seek a second term, Lyndon Johnson didn’t even try and Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush were rejected by voters.
    Maybe Obama will join the ranks of Ford and the first President Bush. Maybe he’ll be re-elected and reverse the curse, finding a way to entice Congress to help him put into action more of his agenda.
    Page 2 of 2 - After all, Fitzgerald also wrote, “Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind.”
    Of course, Fitzgerald drank. Four more years of political disappointment and we all may.
    Kevin Frisch’s column, Funny Thing ..., appears each Sunday in the Canandaigua (N.Y.) Daily Messenger. Email him at kfrisch@messengerpostmedia.com.
     

        calendar