No, He Doesn't Really Want a Second Term

Carol Platt Liebau

10/7/2012 7:35:46 PM - Carol Platt Liebau

Byron York notes that his presidential term of four years is about as long as Barack Obama has ever held any one job before seeking to move on, and aggregates pieces by liberals wondering whether the President even wants a second term.

My guess is that the answer is a clear "no." As Ronald Brownstein points out, he has no second term agenda.  

I don't think that he's exactly "bored" in the job (or looking to be "kicked upstairs," as I've put it before).  Rather, it's that the job is harder than he thought it would be -- and more difficulty and criticism has come with it than he ever expected or previously experienced.  I suspect that he was naive --and arrogant -- enough to think that all the problems (from Iraq, to the mideast in general, to the economic downturn, to health care, to partisan bickering) would be solved with relative ease thanks to the strength of his charisma (of which he's been resoundingly assured throughout his life).  Why else, absent such mistaken certainty, would someone actually put a sound-bite out there talking about how without an improved economy, his own presidency would be a "one-term proposition"?

He's tired, he's so ideologically rigid that doesn't have a clue about what to do differently to solve the problems that have grown under his watch, and he's just plain sick of the lack of universal recognition of his own specialness.  In contrast, he sees Bill Clinton living the life of Riley as an ex-president -- raking in the bucks, still flying in private jets, doing whatever he wants, and far more adulated than he ever was while in office (I don't think Obama understands just how large a role he himself has played in the renewed appreciation for Clinton's good points).

If Obama weren't so competitive -- and so narcissistically ambitious -- he'd be out of there in a minute. But, you see, "transformative" presidents need two terms for the history books to mark them as great . . . and he's darned if he's going to lose to a (blech!) rich businessman like Romney. Hence the ugly campaigning and the resentment -- and the lack of future plans for a second term. 

The old saying goes that some people want to be president to do something.  Some want it to be something.  But Obama doesn't really want it at all at this point -- he wants to have had it so he can be someone who's a historical "winner" and celebrated (and rich) for the rest of his life without doing another single unpleasant thing.  All that stands between him and it is one more election . . . and four more long years.