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Forward, Thelma and Louise style

As election day approaches, I want to revisit a question that I examined a few months ago. What is the thesis of Obama’s campaign for reelection? What are his big plans for a second term? It seems surpassing strange, given the public’s general unhappiness about the present state of affairs, that Obama’s promise remains essentially more of the same.

His campaign slogan is “Forward,” which is perfect in a sense. Like “Hope and Change,” it is content free. Despite its vacuity, even “Hope and Change” cannot withstand the experience of the past four years. “Hope and Change” has been thrown overboard. If “Forward” is a slogan that promises more of the same, it might be a campaign promise that Obama mostly keeps. We ain’t going back!

In this case, however, more of the same includes the full implementation of Obamacare. That will bring change, but it is change of a kind that will upset every promise he made to sell us the bill of goods.

The Economist observed that with three million more Americans out of work than four years ago, and the national debt $5 trillion bigger, the question is what Obama intends to do with another four years. The Wall Street Journal story by Carol E. Lee and Monica Langley labored (unsuccessfully, in my view) to discover a purpose to a second Obama term. It included this revelation:

Over his first term, Mr. Obama, 51 years old, has fundamentally shifted his view of modern presidential power, say those who know him well. He is now convinced the most essential part of his job, given politically divided Washington, is rallying public opinion to his side.

As a result, if he wins a second term, Mr. Obama plans to remain in campaign mode. “Barack is grayer, but he’s wiser from the battles,” says Charles Ogletree, a friend and one of Mr. Obama’s professors at Harvard. “This time Barack will use the bully pulpit.”

On the one issue Obama took before the public in a big way during his first term, the more he talked the deeper it tanked in public opinion. That would be Obamacare.

The Journal story recalled Obama’s self-assessment of his one acknowledged shortcoming during the past four years: his failure “to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”

The Journal also reported: “He has concluded that he was slow to understand or embrace the role of president as a kind of national counselor.” Hey, there seems to be a pattern here.

As for the achievements to which he might devote himself in a second term, the Journal’s team of reporters (including two contributors not acknowledged in the byline) offered this with a straight face:

The president views a second term in some ways as a second chance, an opportunity to approach the office differently, according to close aides. He would like to tackle issues such as climate change, immigration, education and filibuster reform.

A second chance? Translation: “Please give me a mulligan.”

Climate change? Time to get serious about slowing the rise of the oceans and the healing of Mother Earth.

Immigration and education? You’d think policies promoting economic growth might figure somewhere in the top three, but no.

Filibuster reform? Here I have a constructive suggestion. Appoint former Vice President Walter Mondale to head a commission! To borrow a slogan from a successful reelection campaign of ages past: “Now more than ever.”

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