Saturday, May 18, 2013

Those Second-Term Blues

About 7½ months ago, following Mitt Romney's decisive victory over Barack Obama in their first presidential debate, I observed that what Americans saw on their TV screens was completely at odds with the narrative they had been spoon fed by the Obama administration.

"And, in my experience," I wrote, "when people conclude that they have been deceived about one thing, they become suspicious of other things that are said by that person or whoever is authorized to speak on that person's behalf."

I still believe that even though the truth of it wasn't immediately apparent — because, also in my experience, it can take awhile for these things to sink in.

Obama went on to win the election, but I believe the seeds of distrust were planted in some voters' minds that night. I think that goes a long way toward explaining why Obama was the first president in nearly a century to win a second term by smaller popular and electoral vote margins than he received the first time.

(Note: I'm not saying that was the only reason why Romney lost. He made his share of mistakes, and the Republican Party has some problems that it needs to address with certain demographic groups. But the fact remains that the Obama campaign focused on negative campaigning to the exclusion of emphasizing a vision for the future to an extent that has rarely been seen in presidential politics — and seldom from Democrats.)

It was not a resounding victory for the president. It was a tepid endorsement, much like the one George W. Bush received in 2004. And, like Bush, Obama's residual good will appears to be eroding.

Comparisons to other presidents in recent memory who lost the confidence of the people may still be a bit premature, but I keep coming back to the fact that, in my lifetime, no other recently re–elected president has been hit with three major scandals at once so early in his second term.

All three of the scandals — the failure to even attempt to defend the embassy in Benghazi and the Americans in it; the use of the IRS as a weapon against organizations because of their political leanings; and the thoroughly unjustifiable seizure of reporters' phone records by the Department of Justice — are affronts to this country's commitment to freedom and justice.

Frankly, they all concern me — but, perhaps because I am a journalist, I am most offended by the misuse of the Department of Justice. If there is no freedom of the press, then there is no freedom. Period.

Who knows what else lurks just beneath the surface in this White House?

Second terms, as I have observed here before, are notorious for being disasters, but there is usually more of a honeymoon between the election and the onset of the administration's decline. This administration, however, seems to be intent on setting a record for rapid implosion.

Obama took the oath of office to begin his second term almost four months ago, and he started suffering legislative setbacks almost immediately. He has never articulated an agenda for the second term — he avoided doing so during the campaign — and the scandals that are now overwhelming his presidency all appear to have begun with a narcissistic obsession with himself rather than a desire to further a political ideology.

Certainly, he was never motivated by anything resembling a desire to serve the will of the people. That is something that appears to be dawning on some Americans for the first time.

Even so, it should surprise no one when this presidency collapses like a house of cards.

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