Between Benghazi, the IRS, Sandy Hook and the Tea Party, there's been a shift in priorities that was unforseen. (James O' Malley/flickr)
By Robert Bradley
President Obama is currently suffering from a condition that has affected several recent presidents, generally known as the ‘second-term blues’.
From having his domestic agenda priorities suddenly shift to gun control due to the Sandy Hook tragedy to being beset by several recent scandals and playing the role of counselor-in-chief far too many times, President Obama is probably wondering where his magic wand is that he can wave to achieve his vision for the nation. Well there is no magic wand and several substantial consequences for the American political system are likely to happen.
-Congress will devote even more attention to investigating the Obama administration. There will be multiple committees investigating the AP and IRS scandals along with the ongoing investigations of Benghazi. History has shown that typically congressional investigations of specific newsworthy events yield little, if any, important policies but do produce much campaign material. And while congressional members will be putting much time and effort into these investigations, many important issues will be delayed or forgotten until the last moment, such as the approaching debt ceiling, the home mortgage crisis, the sequester, and job creation.
-With all the investigations there will be even greater opportunity for name calling and recriminations by Republicans and Democrats. The already deplorable condition of partisanship in the nation’s capital will likely only get worse in the next few months. Yet one of the most important messages that the American public sent to Washington in the 2012 election was the strong desire for party leaders to work together and make the federal government functional.
-The Tea Party and its adherents will likely see resurgence. After the 2012 election results, many political commentators felt that the Tea Party was losing its political influence. Now with substantial concerns being raised about the overreach of the federal government due to the AP and IRS scandals, Tea Party members can simply say ‘we told you’, and heed our candidates in the next election cycle. This will work to the considerable benefit of Rand Paul, and may also serve as a unifying mechanism for the Republican Party, which experienced considerable splintering in recent elections.
-Several important questions that evolved from recent events are likely not to be addressed in any meaningful way. Those questions would include the following. How will the safety of our diplomats abroad be ensured with ever deepening budget cuts occurring for security assigned to foreign consulates and embassies? How does the federal government prevent chilling whistleblowers while maintaining that American lives are not jeopardized by leaks? How does the government make sure that non-profit groups are not taking advantage of federal tax regulations while pursuing a political agenda?
-President Obama’s approach to governance may well change. Will he continue his typical above-the-fray mentality which affords him the defense of saying that he didn’t know what the Justice Department was doing in regard to AP reporters, and that he had no knowledge about IRS activities? Or will he become much more directly involved in the operations of the executive branch? As the president has discovered there are pitfalls with being generally a passive observer but there are also drawbacks to being seen as an active campaigner for an agenda. Then if the president becomes a micro-manager, the situation becomes even more fraught with risks.
It will be interesting to see what impact the ‘second-term blues’ has not only on the legacy of President Obama but also on the state of our nation’s democracy. Hopefully, the impact will not be too deep and lasting.
Bob Bradley is solely responsible for the opinions expressed above. These opinions do not necessarily reflect those of WJBC, Radio Bloomington or Cumulus Media staff or management.
Bradley was a full-time professor in the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University where he has been since 1982. He has received several recognitions including: Carnegie Scholar for Civic Engagement, Constitution Trail Friend of the Year, and Faculty Star distinction by ISU Athletics. He dearly loves his wife, Reenie, of more than 25 years, and his daughter, Erin. He is an avid reader, devout sports enthusiast, gardener, golfer, and bird watcher.