Lame-duck pres­i­dent

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Pres­i­dent Obama will en­ter his sec­ond term a lame duck from Day One. In fact, he has been limp­ing along for some time al­ready. The Nov. 6 re­sult was no po­lit­i­cal man­date. In his vic­tory speech, Mr. Obama told sup­port­ers, “You made your voice heard,” but the voice was more like a whis­per. He at­tracted 9 mil­lion fewer votes than he did in his first cam­paign for “hope and change,” which is slightly more than John McCain earned in 2008. Mr. Obama is the first pres­i­dent since Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton ran un­op­posed in 1792 to be re-elected with fewer pop­u­lar votes, and he is the first since 1916 to re­gain of­fice while shed­ding elec­toral votes. Thus Mr. Obama con­tin­ues his march into the his­tory books by se­cur­ing the fee­blest re-elec­tion ever.

The mo­men­tum and vast store of pub­lic ap­proval Mr. Obama en­joyed at the out­set of his first term has ex­pired. In its place, he in­her­its a sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic mess from him­self, and he has no idea what to do about it. The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s lack of a plan for the sec­ond term will soon be­come ap­par­ent — the glossy pam­phlet the Obama cam­paign dis­trib­uted in the clos­ing weeks of the race was no leg­isla­tive agenda.

Pres­i­den­tial author­ity gen­er­ally winds down in a sec­ond term. There are ex­cep­tions to this rule, but the ex­cep­tions are re­served for pres­i­dents backed by land­slide re-elec­tions like Lyn­don John­son and Ron­ald Rea­gan. These na­tional lead­ers com­bined elec­toral mo­men­tum with re­newed vi­sion to hit their sec­ond term run­ning. By con­trast, Mr. Obama pro­moted his lack of new ini­tia­tives as a virtue. His weak­ness will be com­pounded if he does not shake up his White House team. The sense of same­ness, stal­e­ness and weari­ness among long-serv­ing mem­bers of the ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­motes a gen­eral mood of in­er­tia.

When it comes to Amer­ica’s prob­lems, there will be no slow­down. The hard is­sues that were shunted aside un­til af­ter the elec­tion will soon come due.

The loom­ing fis­cal cliff will be Mr. Obama’s first post-elec­tion test.

He is expected to try to make good on his pledge to close the bud­get gap through higher taxes on in­comes, cap­i­tal gains and div­i­dends.

This would de­press mar­kets, sti­fle growth and pre­vent job cre­ation. It’s the per­fect plan for peo­ple who want more of the same.

Whether Mr. Obama can pull off his tax agenda is an open ques­tion. He lacks the po­lit­i­cal clout to get it through the Repub­li­can-led House, and he has shown no in­cli­na­tion to seek com­pro­mise. Leav­ing the House in GOP hands con­firms the pub­lic’s am­biva­lence to­ward Mr. Obama. The Amer­i­can peo­ple did not want a re­peat of the first-term orgy of big-ticket leg­is­la­tion that has left the gov­ern­ment fur­ther awash in debt. Grid­lock is a prefer­able al­ter­na­tive to Mr. Obama’s fis­cal reck­less­ness.

Af­ter the elec­tion, the United States is left vir­tu­ally where it was on the day be­fore the elec­tion, with the same weak lead­er­ship fac­ing mount­ing crises. Call­ing Mr. Obama a lame duck sim­ply af­firms what has been true all along.

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