And I agree with her. I, too, would hate for Barbara Walters to be a Republican candidate thinking of running. But as for the rest of the field, Obama's triumph over bin Laden no more rules out Republican success than George H.W. Bush's victory in Kuwait prohibited Democratic success in 1992. After winning the first American war since Vietnam, Bush had an approval rating of 89 percent yet was still undone by a hostile media, a mild recession and his own complacency.
The analogy can be -- and is already -- overdone. We are technically in a recovery, albeit a tepid one. Obama has the media in his corner and no Ross Perot-type figure nipping at his heels. (Donald Trump may play such a role, but he would, like Perot did, steal more votes from the Republicans than the Democrats. Already the fever swamps speculate that Trump-the-Birther is an Obama plant. He's not. He's simply an ego with hair.).
The 1992 analogy falls apart in other ways as well. Bush was challenged in the primaries. To date, Obama's party may not be as enthusiastic as the White House would like, but there are no signs of revolt either (despite an increasingly long list of disappointments and betrayals from Obama).
But there are ways in which 1992 is instructive. First, the challenger won by "focusing like a laser" on the economy. (Remember "it's the economy, stupid"?) It is already looking next to impossible for the White House to coast on a resurgent economy the way Reagan did in 1984. Things will likely improve, but don't expect a lot of "Morning in America" ads from the Democrats.
More important, 1992 demonstrated the folly of complacency. The first President Bush wasn't the only one who thought he was a shoe-in for re-election. So did a great many "top-tier" Democrats who opted not to run against the "unbeatable" incumbent. Bill Clinton saw an opportunity, and he was hungrier for victory than his opponent. This election will likely go to the hungrier candidate who can convince Americans he or she can deliver better days.
Getting rid of bin Laden is a good start. But there's an irony here. Obama has treated foreign policy (at least until his Libyan adventure) as something to keep on the back burner so he could concentrate on domestic politics. By killing Osama bin Laden, he got what he wished for. And that may just be the beginning of his problems.
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