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.
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
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.
I can’t see Obama seeking any other type of political office after his Presidency. Quite frankly, I don’t think Obama likes politics all that much. For him, politics has been a necessary evil — the means to a very specific end (the Presidency).
I don’t envision Obama seeking or accepting a less prestigious position after two terms in the White House. Nor do I think that he needs to do so in order to remain an influential voice. I believe he has the ability to stay relevant without holding any further office. In fact, that could be a strength as he would have the freedom to focus on the issues most important to him without fearing the response from his constituency.
I’ll tell you what I’d love to see Obama do after the White House. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have been wonderful examples of the type of meaningful work that an ex-President can do by putting to use his talents, influence, and unique connections with foreign leaders and people around the world. The humanitarian accomplishments of the Carter Center and Clinton Foundation are impossible to list, but those groups (and their partners), under the leadership of our former Presidents, have done and continue to do remarkable things for the world. George W. Bush has also began to follow in the Post-Presidential footsteps of his predecessors, particularly in Africa where Bush directed a tremendous amount of humanitarian aid while he was President. Since leaving office, Bush has continued to show his interest and concern for the people of sub-Saharan Africa and has expanded his relief efforts there.
No one would be surprised to see Obama commit himself to similar efforts after leaving the White House. The examples set by former Presidents Carter, Clinton, and now Bush, have made such humanitarian work almost seem part of the responsibilities of being an ex-President.
I hope Obama will continue such work, but with a different focus. I’d like to see the former community organizer bring relief efforts or humanitarian missions to troubled people and places right here in the United States. That would be very powerful, and I think it could be effective.
Imagine Obama, like Clinton, raising money for a Foundation through the force of his personality and mere presence. While Carter and Clinton use their foundations to build homes, provide low-cost or no-cost medication and health care, or offer educational opportunities internationally, imagine the impact an Obama foundation could have by rebuilding or reinforcing struggling communities here in the United States. Recreational centers with safe places to play sports, do homework, receive tutoring, take certain enrichment classes, and so on. Intramural sports leagues, a community library, performing arts program, adult education (including GED prep), literacy programs for all ages. Access to a school counselor to help find a path to higher education and navigate the application/financial aid process. Life skills, creative cooking classes, responsibility seminars for prospective/deadbeat dads, assistance for single parents/teen moms, child care resources for working parents, a food bank, clothing donations. Mental health resources, access to health care information, vaccines, STD screenings, quarterly health clinics, nutritional education. Even graffiti removal, clean-up crews, public art installation, and neighborhood beautification projects to instill some pride and a feeling of ownership within residents toward the community that they live in.
I could go on-and-on. This obviously is a subject that I have strong feelings about. If someone came up with the financial backing for such a program I would drop everything in order to have the chance to run it. Programs and resources such as these can mean the difference between rehabilitating communities or allowing them to wither and die. Having someone of Obama’s stature and influence advocating for such programs would bring attention to the issue and be a major factor in attracting direct funding as well as the in-kind donations from corporate partners, non-profit organizations, and other collaborators that help power such wide-ranging, ambitious projects.
As President, Obama has frequently mentioned the need to wrap-up our military commitments overseas so that “we can do nation-building here at home”. That would be a fantastic post-Presidential mission for Obama — “domestic relief” or “homefront humanitarianism”. That type of work even has a natural jump-off point — Chicago — due to Obama’s familiarity with his adopted hometown and the staggering number of young people being murdered in the city.
There is even a model for effectively organizing people at the grass roots level and empowering them to lead by telling personal stories and sharing why what they are doing is important to them — the Obama campaign in 2007-2008. By using Camp Obama training techniques like the “story of self”, it should be easy to establish programs in communities ripe for revitalization. Obviously, the message would no longer be about electing a certain individual, but the message could easily be changed while the delivery system, proven to be effective, remains the same.
Alright, I’ll stop daydreaming for now. But this is the perfect post-Presidential mission for Barack Obama — a chance to truly do that “nation-building here at home” that he has mentioned so many times.
(Oh, and I know you’re reading this because you’re a big fan, so, Mr. President, count me in if you need help with this idea.)