Barack Obama's Third Term?
The best line President Obama delivered in his 2015 State of the Union Address was not one written for him by his speechwriters. When he said he would not be on the ballot again, Republicans who had just taken over both Houses of Congress stood and applauded.
Good naturedly, but with a bit of sarcasm, Mr. Obama reminded his opponents that he won both times he was on the national ballot. He was the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to achieve back-to-back election victories.
We need to acknowledge that he is a formidable political actor. He has defied the Constitution in many areas since his first days in office. He brazenly announced he did not like the Defense of Marriage Act and would not defend it in court (or enforce it before it got to court).
He has played fast and loose with U.S. immigration law. His response to the GOP takeover of Congress has been to issue Executive Orders detailing how he will not “take care that the law be faithfully executed.”
On Iran, he is proceeding to let the mullahs -- those inventors of suicide bombings -- slip the noose of international economic sanctions. His diplomacy will render -- is rendering -- the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) a dead letter. And he intends to do this in defiance of Congress. Capitol Hill Democrats are increasingly worried about Iran and its threat to extinguish Israel.
President Obama knows he will not be impeached. That is the source of his hideous strength. But it is not the only reason he is powerful.
If you watched the movie, Lincoln, you saw a great performance by Academy Award winning Daniel Day Lewis. There is one scene in the movie, however, that does not ring true for students of the Great Emancipator. You can watch the scene here [at 1:32:30] although the entire movie is well worth watching.
In this climactic scene, Lincoln says rather uncharacteristically: “I am the President of the United States, clothed in immense power!” Hardly the humble railsplitter image we’ve been taught to revere.
But that scene is Barack Obama. He believes in what he is doing as fervently as Lincoln believed in his own great project. Barack Obama wants to bring democratic socialism to the United States, not with secret police (although he’s not above letting the IRS loose on his opponents). He tells us he sought out the Marxist professors in college. We know he attended the international Socialist Scholars Conference in New York in April 1983 because it’s documented.
Before we cheer too loudly for the Twenty-second Amendment, let us remember this:
Barack Obama doesn’t have to be on the ballot to dominate the 2016 presidential election. He could have a successor who is a stand-in for his policies and a continuation of his persona.
What if he persuades former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to enter the race -- after Hillary is buffeted by surprisingly strong resistance from grassroots liberal activists?
Deval Patrick is a close personal friend who shares the President’s political orientation.
(He also shares two of the President’s most skilled political operatives -- David Axelrod and David Plouffe.)
Plus -- and a big plus it is -- Deval Patrick is likable. Candidate Obama delivered this deadpan left jab to Hillary Clinton in 2008 that was the best line of the whole campaign season. Americans want a President they like. Hillary is not that person.
What if -- and this is not beyond the realm of possibility -- he should pass the baton to Michelle Obama? Her entry into the race would overturn a host of predictions and plans.
Hillary Clinton claims to be the only one who can break that legendary glass ceiling. She boasts of having put “18 million cracks” in it.
But Michelle Obama’s approval numbers far exceed Hillary’s. She shares the most powerful name in American politics today. She would assure a continuation of Barack Obama policies, but even more significantly: Michelle Obama would assure the powerful Obama coalition would stay together.
It is no small consideration that liberal activists would not have to worry about what Barack as First Husband was doing nights in the White House. Does anyone have that confidence about a Bill Clinton let loose in the Oval Office once again?
Liberal journalist Todd Purdom aired these concerns in a much-commented on long piece in Vanity Fair seven years ago.
Old friends and longtime aides are wringing their hands over Bill Clinton’s post–White House escapades, from the dubious (and secretive) business associations to the media blowups that have bruised his wife’s campaign, to the private-jetting around with a skirt-chasing, scandal-tinged posse.
With either of these talented public figures, Deval Patrick or Michelle Obama, Barack Obama could achieve a third term. Deval was born and raised in Illinois. We might even see an “Illinois Dynasty.”
Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe effectively kept power in one small and successful group of high-minded idealists for 24 years. Who is to say Barack Obama cannot seek a similar place in our history?
Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison are veteran political writers on national politics and foreign affairs.