Wednesday, February 13, 2013

THE SECOND TERM Whatever comes of the President's State of the Union speech in a few hours there seems evidence that the President's second term already has signs of his intentions. There is evidence of the Obama that some people hoped for in the first term and were disappointed when he did not fulfill their wishes. Among the first term priorities, if not the first priority was re-election. That produced the kinds of political restraints that disappoint ardent followers of ideology. The second term based on conventional wisdom has a two year window before the mid-term elections and the last two years are lost to lame duck disease. There may be another scenario. Perhaps the President has calculated that he has nothing to lose by challenging conventional wisdom. He has a light breeze at his back with an economy that is in slow recovery, but recovery is key. Fiscal cliffs and short term "kick the can down the road" solutions abound, but there are also solid signs of progress. Reduction in health care costs is a big deal. Deficit reduction attendant to health care and military spending cuts are a big deal. Both of these events are happening quickly and in the face of political headwinds. Fortunately for the President the Republicans have thus far been their own worst enemies. Their obstructionist tactics, so successful during the first term, are less successful if not failed efforts thus far in term two. Cuts in military spending alone are worth watching closely. These cuts hold the greatest promise for real change. If they can be accomplished in the obvious areas of political spending spread across the Congressional map to shore up so many districts and embellish the record of the sponsoring Representative, then there is the promise of real change without necessarily harming the military establishment. The end to weapons development that no one wants, least of all the military. The closing of redundant bases. Watch for Naval expenditures. Ships have long lead times and particularly high costs. The F-35 to the tune of 2500 orders? There is talk of halving that order, and even then , 1250 fighters? Really necessary in this day and age. Is that number likely larger than the total number of fighter planes of all potentially significant adversaries. We are not alone. There is a NATO. There are the Middle Eastern "allies", themselves well equipped with fighter aircraft. The impact of all this on the US economy. It could be significant. But what if the civilian economy rebalances, however slowly? What if real jobs continue to grow and the US finds its growing export footing and entrepreneurial leadership? And lest we forget, we live in a globalized economy where many US companies are invested around the world and less dependent on domestic growth alone. Lots of what ifs. But the charm and challenge of the Presidency is decision-making. Obama shows evidence of accepting his biggest asset: no need to worry about re-election. But what about the D party and 2016? If the President's bets pay off. If the economy continues to grow. If the second term is not lame duck at all but has the signs of bold policy steps, what greater gift could the outgoing President give his party? Pie in the sky? Glass overfull? Too many optimistic assumptions? Possible. But looked at from a Presidential perspective, this second term might be based on a different set of assumptions by President Obama. He is a noted lone thinker. He listens to those close to him, and then synthesizes. He may have decided that what some may consider "bold", others "foolhardy", yet others "risky" as his opportunity to follow his vision. What a grand luxury.

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