David Frum of CNN and Newsweek acknowledges that any President Barack Obama victory in November would be partial.
“It's probably going to look a lot like the second terms of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon — driven not by his own agenda, but by events beyond his control,” Frum writes. “Bush's second term was defined by the after-effects of the Iraq decision he made in his first term; Clinton's by impeachment and the Internet boom; Reagan's by deficits and Gorbachev; Nixon's by Watergate.”
Frum said four factors would play big roles. Three are self-evident.
“Republicans will hold at least one house of Congress,” he writes. “Unless forcibly prevented, Iran will enrich enough uranium for multiple nuclear weapons sometime before 2017. ... Natural gas production will continue to surge.”
That's a very sunny prediction in a world with far too many storm clouds on the horizon. What Frum fails to take into account is a destabilized Middle East — thrown into chaos either by that Iranian nuclear weapon, or Israel's attack to prevent it. It's clear Iran's leaders would welcome either contingency — and would use either to try to expand the nation's role in the region and on the world stage.
Frum also fails to analyze what's happening in Europe and in China, economically. China's economy is grinding to a halt, and the eurozone is in trouble, as well.
As Reuters reported last week, “World business surveys on Thursday painted a picture of economic malaise stretching from Beijing to Berlin, adding to concerns that the world economy was slowing down.”
The world economy is inextricably linked.
So if the economy tanks — as it very likely will, barring a significant change in consumer confidence and business activity — much of Obama's second-term agenda will be sidelined. There simply won't be any money.
But as Frum points out, there won't be votes, either — at least enough to overcome Republican opposition. So any actions he wishes to take on climate change, for example, would have to be achieved through executive orders and agency rule-making authority — and we can expect the Republican Congress to go to court over those actions.
History shows that second terms are often disappointing. Obama will find that problems he encountered in his first term — an opposing party in a position to thwart his plans, and foreign powers with agendas of their own — won't have changed. At least, not for the better.