President Barack Obama released a booklet last week outlining his vision for a second term. Critics say his Blueprint for America's Future still lacks specifics. If Obama is reelected, what can Americans expect in the next four years? What will be his legacy?
George E. Condon Jr. , White House staff writer for National Journal, joined The Daily Circuit Thursday to discuss the potential of a second-term Obama. Don't get your hopes up for sweeping change, he said.
"You are hard-pressed to find a successful second term for a president," he said. "Almost every second-term president has a scandal of some kind. Almost every second term president, the White House is overwhelmed by hubris. They always over-read their mandate."
Peter Kastor, professor of history at Washington University, also joined the discussion.
So what can we expect from Obama?
The administration will play a wait-and-see game on the economy.
"There are real limitations to how much the government can rapidly change the economy either for better or for worse," Kastor said. "If the economy does better, that is the most important thing that can happen to increase the president's political power to achieve anything else he wants."
More cooperation from Republicans?
Democrats often refer to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's notable quote from 2010: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Condon said the White House is hoping Republicans will be more willing to compromise with Democrats to get things done.
"The president and his staff believe that goal is gone if he's been re-elected," Condon said. "They can't deny him a second term; he already has it. So they're hoping that at that point, Republicans will work with him."
Filling federal court vacancies
When voters think about a president's power to nominate Supreme Court justices, they often forget about the lower-level courts and how they influence the country.
"An area where President Obama would really have to focus on his second term is on the broader federal court system," Kastor said. "There are a large number of vacancies in the federal court system and the Republican filibusters in the Senate have pretty much stymied the president's effort to populate the federal court system. So he might get one or two Supreme Court nominations, but there are a large number of lower federal court vacancies and filling those is exactly the kind of objective that presidents carry into a second term. It's the way they shape their legacy by shaping a larger court system in the U.S."
Comprehensive immigration reform
"The hope at the White House is that Republicans who previously supported comprehensive reform will feel they can go back to their previous position with the election over," Condon said. "There is so much pressure from the grassroots and from the states, with states trying to adopt their own more controversial positions, that pressure will lead to a serious effort on both sides to try to come up with something."
More focus on foreign policy
When a president is unable to work with Congress, "they look to foreign policy where they feel they have a freer hand to do things," Condon said.
Kastor said foreign policy will likely be a major component of the next four years under Obama. "I would not be surprised if we hear a lot about peace in the Middle East," he said. "That's the typical maneuver of all second-term presidents; that's the goal they're going to shoot for."
MPR News' Meggan Ellingboe contributed to this report.
Kerri's guest are George E. Condon Jr., the White House staff writer for National Journal and
Peter Kastor, Professor of history at Washington University.
We are talking about what a second Obama administration would look like. Yesterday, we discussed what a Romney administration would look like.
Are there priorities the president didn't accomplish that should be at the top of his to-do list? Do you think a second term gives a president more freedom to take risks-because he isn't running for re-election?
Hopefully, the second term would find our president cementing his record by finding a way to continue doing as he has so far. Stability here in the USA and a search for common ground world wide.
George E. Condon Jr. is a staff writer covering the White House for National Journal. He also contributes to 2012 Decoded. He joined National Journal at the beginning of the Obama administration, covering the White House for CongressDaily. Prior to that, he covered the White House and national politics as Washington bureau chief for Copley News Service and the San Diego Union-Tribune.
"The crisis became the agenda." - George Condon on how the economy took over Obama's attention when he entered office.
"This is the moment that Obama will really show his cards" when it comes to social issues, says Peter Kastor. A president can be liberated by re-election. Reagan and Clinton both aggressively pursued issues close to their heart in their second term.
@KerriMPR With a determined opposition leading to gridlock what can Obama (or Romney) do if the otherside refuses to govern?
George Condon: I can tell you what the Whitehouse hope is. They cite what Mitch McConnell said that "his number one priority was making Obama a one-term president. The Whitehouse hopes that once he is re-elected, the GOP will now work with him. Especially on immigration reform.
Washington Post fact check on the McConnell "make Obama a one-term president" quote.
Congressional Republicans' biggest fear wasn't that Obama will be reelected, it's that they will be primaried out of office if they show any sign of cooperating with him. That fear remains even when Obama's not up for reelection.
Will the Grand Bargain that was supposedly so close to happening with Speaker Boehner be resurrected?
"The Republicans are determined to use all those parliamentary tools at their disposal to block judicial appointments." But also confirms that the Obama administration hasn't worked hard at filling vacancies on the benches.
Hi Kerri, I'm suprized after the Bush tax cuts, specifically for the rich, that we don't see any job creation. So how will increasing the tax on the rich prevent job creation when it isn't happening? Will they just come on line with all these jobs after Mitt's in office?
@KerriMPR wishing either candidate would do away with corporate subsidies.
Peter Kastor agrees that the GOP and the Whitehouse will not have a new relationship. He called your comment "astute" and confirms that the House has pressures that have nothing to do with the Whitehouse.
George adds that there is also pressure from the states.
George Condon says that second terms overread their mandate and are filled with hubris. They also spend a lot of time on foreign policy when they can't get anything done domestically.
@KerriMPR should the filibuster be an election issue? Say 41 votes needed on the floor to maintain the filibuster. it's too easy now
@KerriMPR wishing either candidate would do away with corporate subsidies.
Hopefully massive self-deportation of....republicans! Or...secession.
NPR on an Obama second term:
It's been a bit of a mystery throughout the campaign. The president seems to devote at least as much time criticizing his Republican opponent Mitt Romney as he does explaining what he'd like to do if returned to office.
Obama has taken some heat for his silence and sought to answer such complaints this week. But even as he's made his priorities more clear, he hasn't answered what may be the biggest outstanding question: how he'll get congressional Republicans to go along with his agenda.
George Condon says there is often a "second term" scandal. Lewinsky. Iran-Contra.
Guest mentioned that our Congress people represent the people of the district etc. The oath of office is to defend and uphold the Constitution - the law of the federal government-not the people . The sooner we hold them to that , including Art1Sec8clause 1 the power to tax the sooner we will have progess .
Peter Kastor predicts a lot "peace in the middle east" talk.
like the lesser of 2 evils
"If there is one issue that you can't get the President to talk about on the stump, it's global warming," says Condon. He adds that Romney avoids global warming talk, too.
Why wouldn't Obama do what he is campaigning on? Are you suggesting a bait and switch because he will not be held accountable? He hasn't been held accountable for everything he said he would do and hasn't: IE DEBT reduction for one! #Ron Paul for President
What pattern has been set or strengthened by the current Repulican position of making President Obama fail?
What if the Republican win. What is to keep the Democrats from making Romney fail? And it goes on and on.
@KerriMPR second term for a democratic pres gave us a budget surplus's and an economy that created millions of jobs.
@KerriMPR I suspect that in a second term some idiot in Congress will try an impreachment over the Libya situation. Which is sad ....
If re-elected, the President will be free to address poverty and the disparities of the African American population. Topics he has avoided in his first term.
"Some of the possible second-term goals are ones he set aside in the first when they were too difficult or politically costly. They include a rewrite of immigration laws, efforts to combat global warming and a sweeping change in the tax code beyond the year-to-year extensions of Bush-era tax cuts."
Peter Kastor says that 2nd term staff are often people personally close to the President. People from the Whitehosue staff move to the cabinet.
At the top of his to do list should be ending the failed war on drugs. And calling out the prohibition of Hemp/cannabis as unconstitutional un-American and crime against humanity and nature.
@kerrimpr if Obama wins w/ a large Hispanic vote will republicans come around to immigration reform to blunt dems electoral advantage
George Condon thinks the design of the stimulus program was the biggest mistake of the administration. It became a liberal "wish list."