President and Mrs Obama dancing
Presidential second terms have a bad reputation. It’s almost enough to make you wonder why President Barack Obama wanted the job.
President George W. Bush saw his popularity dragged into the cellar in his second term by the unpopular Iraq war, the botched government response to Hurricane Katrina and the failed push to privatize Social Security.
Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky was exposed and led him to become just the second U.S. president to be impeached. Sordid details of his affair with the White House intern made Clinton a punchline and drew headlines around the world.
President Ronald Reagan faced the “Iran-Contra” scandal in which Tehran, though designated a state sponsor of terrorism, received arms shipments with Washington’s blessing. And Nixon? Watergate!
Obama's second term formally opens next week. But he already faces an array of problems that’s enough to make you wonder whether the Audacity of Hope will turn into the Audacity of Heartburn.
“I think he 's going to have a rough second term like almost all presidents,” former Reagan speechwriter Ken Khachigian said of Obama. “I don't think it's going to be easy. You tend to run out of steam, your staff becomes tired.”
Obama faces pitched political battles on the home front over swollen deficits, gun violence and the slow pace of economic recovery. Crises continue to dot the landscape overseas, including Iran’s nuclear program, a belligerent North Korea, and Europe’s deep financial troubles.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Oval Office visit on Friday highlighted the obstacles – to say nothing of the dangers – of Obama’s plan to end America’s longest war in 2014. And a handful of investigations into his Administration – over the “Fast and Furious” gun sale program and national security leaks -- could flare up at any time.
Obama has made it clear he knows what often happens after presidents are re-elected.
“I’m more than familiar with all the literature about presidential overreach in second terms. We are very cautious about that," Obama said at his first press conference after defeating Republican Mitt Romney on November 6.
Still,Obama said he had a "mandate" to help middle-class Americans still struggling in the sluggish economy.
"I didn’t get re-elected just to bask in re-election,” he said.
A veteran of Republican and Democratic administrations, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, told Yahoo News that second terms are tough because “you don’t have your best people, you’re more tired, you’re more prickly, and the issues don’t go away and don’t become less complicated.”
“The staffing, the stamina, the focus and fight” are weaker in a second term, the former official added, saying "a lot of the fight was clearly gone from the Bush team" at the end.
White House officials mostly roll their eyes at warnings like this, and say Obama’s legacy is already secure after first term accomplishments like the federal health care law, the overhaul of Wall Street rules, and pulling the economy from what the president has described as the brink of another Great Depression.