Published January 20, 2013
Though the public inauguration ceremony takes place Monday, President Barack Obama’s new term began Sunday, with his official swearing-in held in the White House’s Blue Room.
Many of us hope his second term will be better than his first. To understand why, consider his record so far.
Fewer Americas are working today than when Mr. Obama took the oath of office four years ago. The unemployment rate is higher. He’s the first president to preside over a decline in median household income during a recovery. Nearly half as many more people receive food stamps than when he first took office and 1 out of every 6 Americans lives in poverty.
The national debt has grown from $10.627 trillion four years ago — or $34,782 for every man, woman and child — to $16.433 trillion, or $52,135 for every American as of Thursday.
At the current rate of job creation, it will take until roughly February 2015 to get the country back to the number of jobs it had when the recession started in December 2007. In the meantime, at least 8.6 million Americans will have entered the workforce without any jobs available for them.
Looking abroad, America’s interests — and America’s standing — are worse off in every region of the world today than they were four years ago. The Obama administration squandered the nation’s hard-won victory in Iraq, ceding influence there to Iran. Afghanistan may be abandoned to a cruel and dangerous fate. The early opportunity to bend the Arab Spring in the direction of moderation and modernization has largely been lost. And friend and adversary alike question America’s resolve.
As for his style of governing, Obama is the most polarizing president in the history of Gallup’s polling. He begins his second term with a job approval rating last Friday of 48 percent, the lowest for any modern president at the start of their second term and 19 percent below his standing four years ago.
So what is the president’s mindset as he approaches the challenges of a second term? The New York Times reported Sunday morning that friends believe he’s “bloodier minded to beating Republicans” and no longer willing to accept Speaker John Boehner not immediately returning his phone calls.
Aides tell reporters that the president, having won a second term and never having to run for election again, feels liberated. But liberated to do what? Answer: To wage unremitting war on political adversaries. Why? To win back the House for Democrats in 2014.
If Obama’s friends and aides are accurate, then he has become liberated to act small, to focus on the petty, and to be committed to even greater polarization. Let's hope they’re wrong. But based on his words and actions since the election, I suspect they are largely right.
All of which means you can treat with healthy skepticism whatever healing words the president uses in his address Monday and instead, prepare yourself for a long, nasty four years.