John Patrick Grace: Obama’s second term isn’t all that shabby
Presidents typically have a rough go of it in their second term. And of course not all of them even get the chance to row upstream, because they have gone down to defeat in their re-election bid.
Think back with me: Richard Nixon got enmeshed in the Watergate break-in scandal and had to resign the presidency rather than face impeachment. The smart money was betting that he’d not only be impeached if he stayed on but convicted and forced from office.
Bill Clinton? If you’re over 30, you pretty well remember his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives for his Oval Office dalliance with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and his narrow escape from conviction by the Senate, which had a Democratic majority.
It’s taken him years since leaving office to shed the shameful aura he acquired through his impeachment proceedings and the dribbling out into the media of the sordid details of his quickie trysts with Monica L.
George W. Bush’s favorability ratings with the voting public sank to an abysmal 28 percent due to suspicions that he and Vice President Dick Cheney had plunged America into a bitter and costly war in Iraq on false premises — the claim that Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein was harboring “weapons of mass destruction.”
No such weapons were ever uncovered. And the folly of the Iraq War still hangs over the Republican Party like an unwelcome cloud of toxic crop dusting spray.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and W’s father, George Herbert Walker Bush, sometimes known as “Bush I,” never got the opportunity to strut their stuff for a second term. In a word, their favorables moving toward Election Day for Term No. Two were simply too low for them to prevail.
All of which brings us to the struggles that have lately beset President Barack Obama. Given the context I’ve sketched just above, Obama is actually not doing as badly as some people — in the media and among the voting public — suppose.
Yes, his favorability rating hovering in the low 40s is not wonderful. However, it’s 12 points or more better than G.W. Bush at his nadir. And it’s a whopping 22 points or more higher than the current favorability ratings for congressional Republicans of 18 percent in some polls.
Truth to tell, Obama’s economic record over five-and-a-half years might even be considered enviable.
A piece in a recent issue of Time magazine by former Treasury Secretary Roger Altman (Clinton administration) reels off statistics that, trust me, a President Mitt Romney or any other Republican who’d gained the White House would be crowing about today.
Altman asserts that, public skepticism notwithstanding, “America is experiencing a profound comeback.” He quotes Goldman Sachs as projecting a 3.3 percent growth rate for the balance of 2014 and adds: “The first half of 2014 saw the best job creation rate in 15 years.
“Total household net worth is now well above its 2007 peak, driven by the recovery in stock prices and home values. Household debt-to-income ratios are the lowest in more than 30 years.”
And the cherry atop the sundae: “With an average of 248,000 new jobs having been added in each of the past five months, the unemployment rate is probably on course to fall to 5 per cent in 2016.”
There are many more positives in Altman’s report, involving soaring U.S. domestic natural gas and oil production and evidence of a retooled and relaunched manufacturing sector. Check it out. It’s in the issue dated July 28.
John Patrick Grace formerly wrote and edited for The Associated Press from Chicago, New York and Rome. He is currently a book editor and publisher in Huntington and teaches The Life Writing Class.
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