I'm sitting here this Monday morning watching the preliminaries for the second inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. As a long time supporter of Obama, I thrilled by the event. I'm especially thrilled NOT to be watching the inauguration of Mitt Romney and the attendant gloating of those who squandered fortunes in the attempt to get him elected. Instead, I confess to a bit of my own gloating...
But not too much. I realize that the job ahead is a daunting one. There is much that we hoped Obama would be able to do in his first term, and could not. There is much that disappointed us, when matched up against our expectations. And the media have made much of the difficulty experienced by second-term presidents in actually getting anything done.
Advice for the President is plentiful, and the 24-hour news cycle offers a platform to every pundit and his grandmother to voice it. Generally, though, it seems addressed toward the improvement of his personal relationships with those on the other side of the political spectrum. I just heard one of those who offer free advice compare Obama to Reagan. Reagan's background, he recalled, was not merely as an actor but also as a union negotiator. He knew, the commentator said, how to settle for 50 percent of what he wanted. He did not mention that Reagan, unlike Obama, was negotiating with reasonable people who would also settle for that 50 percent. Obama has been constrained to negotiate with hard-line opponents who demand no less than 100 percent and are more than ready to say no, even when he offers what they had demanded in the first place.
As for the frequently-heard complaint that Obama is insufficiently friendly and sociable with those opponents, citing such prior leaders as LBJ and Ronald Reagan, neither of those two, to my knowledge, confronted opponents who on the very day he entered office swore to stand in the way of everything he proposed. Their implacable and humorless enmity made such friendly relations more of a challenge than any of his predecessors faced.
I found the inaugural speech to be generous, inclusive and forward-looking. I wish the newly re-inaugurated President well, and trust that this time around he will enjoy the support of the Congress in the same proportion he enjoys that of the majority of people he serves.