OK, that’s a bit dramatic, but that was the first thought I had when I heard that President Obama told ABC News that “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.”
For a guy with his education and his reputed smarts, that’s a pretty dumb thing to say. America doesn’t work that way.
The rule has been if you’re a good president, you get a second term. If you’re not, you don’t. We simply don’t do “really good” one-term presidencies.
Look at history, Who have been our one-term presidents? Could any of them be considered “great?”
George H. W. Bush. Done in one. History is being a bit kinder, but I remember that election cycle. He was fired. And there was a certain justification. (I speak as someone who voted for him both times, and lent my underage support to him in 1980.)
Jimmy Carter. ‘Nuff said.
Gerald Ford. See Bush, above.
Herbert Hoover. Warren Harding. William Taft. And that’s just the last 100 years.
Oh, yeah, there’s one exception. One president who didn’t get a second term, and he’s the exception to the rule about one-termers being considered “great.” Unfortunately, John F. Kennedy was assassinated — and that fact tends to color people’s perceptions of him a bit.
What Obama is doing is engaging in a bit of pre-emptive spin. He knows that right now his re-election bid is pretty shaky. Never mind that the election is almost three years away; Obama is simply incapable of seeing things in the long term. Low poll numbers today must be addressed today. When you live in perpetual campaign mode, everything must be done as if the election were tomorrow.
And governing? What’s that?
Obama is running the risk of skipping the two possibilities he outlined, and falling into a far more common mold: the mediocre (if not abysmal) one-term president.
But that’s OK. He’s a winner, and winners write history. Or, at least, teach history. So he’ll be seen as a “great” president, brought down by reaching too far and a bitter, reactionary, racist, bigoted opposition.
Sadly, that’s about the best he thinks he can hope for.