United States

Jan 21, 2013

Reagan, Clinton, Bush: the second-term curse awaiting Obama

Barack Obama's place in history will be decided this year. He has a small window to enact his ambitious agenda, and a hostile Congress to get it done. Dr David Smith of The United States Studies Centre explains.

Barack Obama

Second terms aren’t easy. We remember one-term US presidents like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush as “losers”, but only presidents who make it to a second term have the chance to be remembered as genuine catastrophes.

The most unpopular living president is George W. Bush, whose self-congratulatory mishandling of Hurricane Katrina made Americans re-evaluate the disaster unfolding in Iraq. Nixon won 49 states in 1972 then used his office to persecute his enemies so obsessively and illegally that he nearly destroyed public trust in the institution of government.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

7 thoughts on “Reagan, Clinton, Bush: the second-term curse awaiting Obama

  1. chpowell

    “This leaves Dwight Eisenhower, who left office in 1960, as the last president whose second term did not plunge the American people into some kind of nihilistic crisis”

    Uh, ever hear of Sputnik, October, 1957? This triggered paranoia in the public, and the launching of the Advanced Projects Research Agency (later becoming DARPA), NASA itself, and the Space Race (a prong of the Arms Race); more cynically, Kennedy invented the concept of a ‘missile gap’, which he exploited for political purposes in the 1960 Presidential election.

  2. AR

    chpowell – I grew up with “missile gap” but have very scarey memories, in the late 70s, of the even more pernicious “window of vulnerability” which combined falsehoods, sabre rattling and nationalism gone nuts.

  3. Kevin Herbert

    Screw Obama & his MIC, MSM, banksters & AIPAC puppetmasters…intellectually & morally corrupt all.

    I wouldn’t cross the road to offer my bodily fluids to extinguish fire on their persons jointly or severally….as it were.

  4. j.oneill

    Amazing that a whole article could be written on Obama’s second term without once mentioning foreign policy. Obama is currently bombing at least six countries (all Muslim). According to the NY Times he has weekly meetings to decide who is going to be killed in a due proves free manner. He continues to have US special forces in more than 100 countries carrying out sabotage, killings etc etc. He continues to finance and arm terrorist proxies to fight wars where overt US intervention is politically difficult. He is a man utterly without scruple and one of the major war criminals of the 21st century. Yet Dr Smith thinks that gun control, healthcare “reform” and immigration are the big issues Obama faces. If only that we’re true.

  5. Paddy Forsayeth

    It is a great pity that Crikey and the media generally have largely been silent on the extra judicial killing perpetrated by the US government(s). j.oneill is spot on. The UK Guardian did an article on this subject last year but I don’t recall any others. The US is a violent country particularly towards those, individually and collectively, who are deemed “enemies”. The consumerist state is controlled by the rich and they will not tolerate anything or anyone which will interfere in their addictive compulsion to heap upon themselves disproportionate wealth and power. The US presidents I have seen over my lifetime have always demonstrated that their primary task is to ensure US global hegemony. Obama will not fail in this task.

  6. JKUU

    Barack Obama will need to change his mode of operation in his second term to achieve his policy objectives. Two things are important to a better strategy: He will need to be more assertive, and second, he will need to harness public opinion to his efforts.

    We’ve known since the 19th century that public opinion is always important in politics as practiced in the U.S. No politician wants to be on its wrong side. At present, public opinion supports Obama’s positions on gun regulation, withdrawal from foreign wars, and national debt reduction by increased taxation on the wealthy and reduced spending, particularly on defense. But more support needs to be raised. A way to do this would be for Obama to institute regularly scheduled TV appearances to explain his policies directly to the people, and garner support for them. The idea is similar to “fireside chats” where Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the people on evening radio in the 1930s and 40s. This would also help dispel the charge of “aloofness” that critics have leveled at him.

    His greatest roadblock for at least the next two years is the House, with its GOP majority held in thrall by a large group of hard right ideologues. Lyndon Johnson was a superb negotiator when it came to getting his great domestic initiatives of the 1960s through Congress. It remains to be seen whether Obama possesses much of Johnson’s acumen as a negotiator.

    As the saying goes: “the President proposes, but Congress disposes”. Obama will have to go over Congress’ head and appeal directly to the people to ensure a successful second term.

  7. Kevin Herbert


    you must be from the US Studies Centre…don’t let the facts get in ther way of your lightweight posturing on domestic policy…no no….German journos in the late 1930’s were doing the same.

    For your blind adherence to the US State Deopartment line, you are awarded the ‘I’m Not Helen Thomas’ award for this month.

    How dare we mention the facts…..

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details