Obama: The New Mr. Irrelevant

Posted on May 1, 2013 by


Obama Second Term BystanderMr. Irrelevant, in the sporting world, is the last player picked in the NFL Draft. This year, the Indianapolis Colts selected Justice Cunningham, South Carolina tight end, with the 254th, and last, pick. I hope, for Justice’s sake, he has a long and profitable career, but the name sticks because the odds are that Cunningham will struggle to impact the team or even make its roster. In a twisted way, Cunningham is more of a celebrity because of his draft position, even compared to people selected several rounds ahead of him.

Well, there is a new Mr. Irrelevant in America, but he is not a temporary Colt. Re-elected just a scant six months ago, Barack Obama seems shuffled to the bench and risks being cut entirely from our body politic. The assumption was that Obama was ascendant. In the thick of a second term, there were surely new heights to scale, initiatives to launch, and signing ceremonies to attend. Right?

Not so fast, it seems. Apparently bereft of ideas, and unwilling to pull his political loafers from ideological cement, President Obama is now, according to the sympathetic Dana Milbank, a bystander. Still illuminated by his post-election afterglow, the president seemed formidable, but this nascent term is now marked by two stinging public defeats–gun control and the budget sequestration.

We should have seen this coming. Second terms are historically bumpy rides, either through scandal or political backlash. George W. Bush failed to reform Social Security and the economic collapse began during his last year in office. Ronald Reagan suffered Iran-Contra and a lost Senate. Clinton got impeached. Nixon resigned. Also, presidents achieve most during their first terms. We think of Roosevelt and the New Deal’s first 100 Days, Reagan’s tax cuts, Nixon’s trip to China, Clinton’s Welfare Reform, and Obama’s health care overhaul were all first term successes.

Obama still has a chance to be a historic president, but his ego and ideological commitments must wage an internal war. If his ego wins, there is a chance he will approach Republicans and cobble together meaningful entitlement and budget reforms. They are needed and the opportunity awaits. However, if ideology’s icy fingers dig deeper into his psyche, expect Mr. Obama to continue his current run as Mr. Irrelevant.