Well, let’s be clear, for the Democrats to miraculously win both chambers of Congress in November, it would require a more serious wound than the GOP shooting itself in the foot. Both parties shoot each of their members in both feet almost as a requirement for taking your seat in the House and Senate; so, it’s definitely not happening.
But, yes, if Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, President Obama would still have time to get some things done — roughly from the day the new Congressional session began (January 3, 2015) until the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the summer of 2016. After the nominating conventions, all eyes turn to the general election, of course, but more crucially, members of Congress (particularly the House since all members face re-election) focus on their own campaigns and get very cautious. But for those 18 months or so, the President could definitely get some things done, and would be smart to push through immigration reform and try to shore up the liberal side of the Supreme Court since it’s up-in-the-air who the next President will be and it’s impossible to say whether there would be favorable conditions for confirmation in the 115th Congress that starts in 2017.
It’s not happening, though. And, conversely, if the Republicans win both chambers of Congress on November 4th, President Obama becomes a lame-duck President before he eats breakfast on the morning of November 5th.
Some of the more lefty-liberals (and full disclosure: I am one of them) will grumble about Hillary Clinton’s positioning, but far-left Democrats understand that Bernie Sanders can’t win a national election. I’m not sure if far-right Republicans recognize that Rick Santorum or Rand Paul or Ted Cruz can’t win a national election. That’s the difference between the extreme wings of the party, in my opinion. At some point, people need to understand that they will not get everything that they want from every candidate; parties will nominate the candidate that has the best chance to win, and it might not be everybody’s first choice, but Hillary Clinton is that person for the Democratic Party in 2016.
I don’t worry about whether Hillary has grown since the 2008 campaign. First of all, she knows that she’s not invincible. I think that there was an arrogance to her campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2007 and 2008. Not that Hillary was being arrogant, but that her campaign as a whole felt like it was a coronation. There is a risk of that in 2016 because she’s been put forward as the inevitable candidate, but I think Hillary recognizes that possibility, which is why she’s putting off an official announcement for as long as possible. Plus, she’s older and doesn’t want to run a 20-month-long national campaign. On top of all of that, Hillary’s term as Secretary of State was a different type of experience for her. She gained some time as an actual decision-maker in the Executive branch and became a foreign policy heavyweight. Hillary’s biggest challenge in 2016 isn’t going to be that she hasn’t grown; it’s going to be her connection to President Obama. If his popularity continues to nose-dive — and Presidents don’t normally get a spike in popularity during the final two years of a two-term Presidency — she’ll have to distance herself from him even more, and that won’t be easy.
Vice Presidents always tend to be easy targets and since Biden is so affable and open, people seem to underestimate him. Quite frankly, I don’t know where the Obama Administration would be without Vice President Biden. It’s no secret that Obama has been terrible with building relationships with Congress (and that’s certainly not solely his fault), and can be aloof at times because that’s just one of his personality characteristics — he’s not cold, he’s just a very serious, focused, cautious person. On the other hand, Biden is open and candid — sometimes to a fault — and it makes it easy to poke fun at him. Biden lacks a filter and often says things that he probably shouldn’t say — not necessarily because he’s saying something inappropriate, but more so because he’s so authentic. Like I said, some people find that to be a fault, but I find that to be incredibly refreshing, especially in a political leader who has basically spent his entire adult life in elective office.
But Biden has built bridges between the White House and Congress that have helped accomplish the big things that the Obama Administration has actually been able to get done. That’s because of Biden’s masterful political skills and the relationships and connections that Biden forged through nearly 40 years in the Senate. Biden likes to be underestimated because Biden knows exactly how gifted he is. He has never lacked that confidence — not even when he first ran for the Senate. I mean, Joe Biden is a guy who was so confident in himself that he ran for the Senate (and won) even though he wasn’t yet Constitutionally eligible to actually take his seat until a few weeks after the election.
Plus, a lot of people don’t truly know Joe Biden’s story. They know that he’s been around forever and that he spent decades in the Senate, but he’s never been the stereotypical fat cat incumbent clinging to his spot on Capitol Hill. Biden has always been active, always been a fighter, and always been straightforward. Biden earned everything that he has ever obtained and he worked for the people of his constituency in Delaware every day since his 1972 election, and he’s continued that work on behalf of the people of the United States every single day since he was elected Vice President. I wish that everyone would read more about Joe Biden, learn his story, and see how much he has overcome and how hard he has worked to get to where he is today — Jules Witcover’s Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption (BOOK | KINDLE) is a great place to start.
On a personal basis, I don’t hesitate to stay that Vice President Biden is probably my favorite politician alive today; it’s a close race between Biden and Bill Clinton. But from a professional standpoint — removing any of my personal biases or political beliefs from the equation — I think Joe Biden is probably the best Vice President in American history. Dick Cheney was a more powerful Vice President, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into excellence. Al Gore was the most influential VP up to that point, but his relationship with President Clinton wasn’t as symbiotic as Biden and Obama’s. Barack Obama is the mind and the conscience of the Obama Administration, but Joe Biden is the heart and soul.
44th President of the United States (2009- )
Full Name: Barack Hussein Obama II
Born: August 4, 1961, Kapi’olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital, Honolulu, Hawaii
Political Party: Democratic
State Represented: Illinois
Term: January 20, 2009-
Age at Inauguration: 47 years, 167 days
Administration: 56th and 57th
Congresses: 111th, 112th, and 113th
Vice President: Joseph Robinette “Joe” Biden, Jr. (2009- )
Age at Death:
2012 Dead Presidents Ranking: 28 of 43 [↓2]
In 2012, I ranked Barack Obama at 28th but noted that he probably would have been ranked two spots lower if I had written my rankings two weeks earlier, before Chief Justice John Roberts had cast the deciding vote to uphold Obama’s landmark health care reform legislation. I also wrote that if he were reelected later that year, he’d probably climb even higher in the next rankings because if you get reelected, it means you must be doing something right, and a second term allows Presidents to really build a legacy. Two years later, I have Obama two spots lower than he was in 2012, and I think that I still might have him ranked too high. And I worked for Obama in 2008 and nearly took another job with his campaign in 2012. But Obama’s second term has been disastrous — the rollout of the Affordable Care Act was botched; Guantanamo Bay is still open; troops are still fighting in Afghanistan; Iraq is falling apart; the economy hasn’t rebounded; and if the Republicans win control of the Senate on the first Tuesday in November, Obama will become the lamest-duckiest of lame-duck Presidents on the first Wednesday in November. Now, not all of these things are Obama’s fault — he inherited a mess from George W. Bush and he’s battled an obstructionist Congress almost since Inauguration Day. But politics require compromises, compromises require cooperation, and cooperation requires relationships. The relationship between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch is perhaps at the lowest point in history, and even when factoring in how awful many of the members of Congress (on both sides of the aisle) are, a big part of the poor relationship between the White House and the Capitol IS Barack Obama’s fault. It’s always difficult to rank recent Presidents and almost impossible to rank incumbent Presidents, but Obama’s legacy is heading in the wrong direction.
1948: Schlesinger Sr./Life Magazine: Not Ranked
1962: Schlesinger Sr./New York Times Magazine: Not Ranked
1982: Neal/Chicago Tribune Magazine: Not Ranked
1990: Siena Institute: Not Ranked
1996: Schlesinger Jr./New York Times Magazine: Not Ranked
2000: C-SPAN Survey of Historians: Not Ranked
2000: C-SPAN Public Opinion Poll: Not Ranked
2005: Wall Street Journal/Presidential Leadership: Not Ranked
2009: C-SPAN Survey of Historians: Not Ranked
2010: Siena Institute: 15 of 43
2011: University of London’s U.S. Presidency Centre: Not Ranked
Nice try, but since I’ve written pretty extensively on the perks and realities of being President, I have to admit that it’s not really a pop quiz for me.
Anyway, the First Family pays for all of their own food for their personal meals, or when they have guests. It doesn’t matter whether the food is purchased as part of their groceries for the kitchen in the Residence or if it’s food prepared by the White House kitchen and ordered by the First Family — they have to pay for every meal. They don’t have to pay for the food for state dinners or gatherings where they entertain members of Congress or diplomats, and there are expense accounts which help pay for different things like entertainment or luncheons/dinners connected with various events or ceremonies.
After a President leaves office, he’s able to cash in by signing a nice book deal and getting paid to make speeches, but Presidents aren’t exactly stacking dollars while they are in office. They don’t have to pay for their own travel, rent, or security, obviously, but they still have personal expenses and have to take care of a lot of incidentals that many people would find surprising. As an example, despite all of the amenities that the White House has, the President still has to send his clothes out and pay for dry cleaning. There used to be a White House barber who cut the hair of the President and other White House staff (they were charged for it), but that was eliminated years ago.
A lot of people don’t realize that the President doesn’t really get paid all that much. I mean, his salary of $400,000 is obviously way better than what most of us make, but considering the responsibilities he has, the amount of time he spends working, and everything else that comes along with the job, I think that the President is underpaid. Consider this: the President’s annual salary is less than the minimum salary of every player in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. If the very last player selected in last month’s NFL draft — the 256th overall pick (chosen in the 7th round and annually nicknamed “Mr. Irrelevant”) — signs a contract with a team in 2014, he’ll make more money than the President of the United States. The lowliest scrub in Major League Baseball has a better annual salary than the President. How crazy is that? The lowest-paid BASEBALL player (!) makes $100,000 more per year than the President of the United States!!!
So, USAID covertly funded and created a “Cuban Twitter” called ZunZuneo in an effort to “destabilize” the Cuban government. Obviously worked out really well…oh wait…USAID ran out of money and it sputtered.
By the way, covert actions by federal agencies require Presidential authorization. Apparently, President Obama has learned nothing about the resiliency of the Cuban Revolution from his TEN IMMEDIATE PREDECESSORS.
There are four whose “retirements” stand out heads-and-shoulders above the rest:
•John Quincy Adams: Defeated for re-election in 1828, but elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1830 and spent the last 17 years of his life in Congress as a passionate opponent of slavery. He was also a major advocate of what became the Smithsonian Institution and continued his fight for internal improvements throughout our growing country while also opposing Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian-era Democratic Party.
•William Howard Taft: After losing his bid for re-election in 1912’s three-way race against Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, Taft spent the entire Wilson Administration as a law professor at Yale. More importantly, just a few months into President Harding’s term, Taft finally got his dream job — Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Taft’s term as Chief Justice was undoubtedly the happiest and most fulfilling time of his professional life and he stayed on the Court until just a few weeks before he died.
•Jimmy Carter: Carter forged an entirely new role for an ex-President with his humanitarian work around the world through the Carter Center. His efforts at personal diplomacy have not always been welcomed by incumbent Presidents, but much of what Carter has accomplished during his 33+ years of “retirement” (the longest post-Presidential life of any POTUS in history) has been remarkable. It’s also set the tone for the modern post-Presidency.
Bill Clinton: Following Carter’s lead, the work the 42nd President has done (and continues to do) since 2001 via his Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative has helped millions around the world. Because of Clinton’s popularity, domestically and internationally, as well as the fact that he’s the best politician alive and likely married to the next President of the United States, he is in a unique position in comparison to every other former President in American history. There’s really no ceiling for what he can accomplish other than his personal health and the 22nd Amendment.
It will be interesting to see how active George W. Bush and Barack Obama decide to be and what they focus on during their post-Presidential life. Bush 43 obviously is not as interested in being as visible as Clinton, but he has continued the extraordinary work in sib-Saharan Africa that he began as President. I’m not sure what Obama’s focus will be, but I don’t think he’s going to just retire to a beach house in Hawaii. I’d like to see him focus on domestic poverty and income inequality. I think all of our former Presidents from this point forward will follow the Carter model to some extent. I’m sure they’ll still cash in on some paid speeches (which I have no problem with), but Carter set the standard for post-Presidential public service.