"If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind." - Kurt Vonnegut
Well into his second term in office, beleaguered Americans have every right to expect President Obama to make a transition from a first term presidency marked by unremarkable achievement, lack of inertia, bitter partisanship, and continued campaigning for reelection.
And judging by his performance at his recent (and rare) press conference, and his recent push to address a number of important issues which was characterized as nothing more than a month of campaigning, that's not happening,
At this press conference, President Obama outlined new, somewhat phony fixes (like a silly transparency website) for what the New York Times termed nation's abusive surveillance programs reproachfully berated continued GOP opposition to Obamacare and an impending government shutdown as an "ideological fixation" and continued halfheartedly to promise near the one year anniversary of Benghazi to bring the killers responsible for the deaths of four diplomats to justice, He talked on a very superficial level about strained U.S.-Russia relations, Putin's personality, and why not to boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. Obama also defended the candidacy as Fed Chairman of former economic adviser Larry Summers, who oversaw a failed effort to revitalize our economy during his first term.
At this stage in his presidency, it was a disappointing performance to say the least. Sadly, Obama's still stuck in campaign mode a la 2011.
Obama's second term is shaping up to be nothing more than a repeat of his lackluster, or half-assed, first four years in office. He failed to turn around the economy and redefine and implement a coherent, strategic foreign policy in terms of transitioning from a neoconservative interventionist approach in world affairs to a populist Obamaesqe (or Hillaryesqe) "internationalism."
In terms of national security, he became George W. Bush on steroids.
The president succeeded in finding and gunning down Osama bin Laden, but wrongfully expanded the push begun by his predecessor to substantially reduce constitutional limitations on government intrusion on privacy and limits on secrecy. He also escalated unfettered presidential power under the guise of national security by sanctioning an undeclared, indefinite war on terror characterized by drone warfare and simultaneous theaters of wars in a number of nations.
Obamacare was passed, but its implementation was delayed and the true, honest expense of the healthcare reform remains a heated issue that is delaying an economic recovery, fueling serious political dysfunction, and stopping bipartisan reforms in budget talks, immigration, and other issues.
True, Obama had not much to work with in Congress, but he did waste the first two years of his presidency with Democratic control of the Hill by surrendering both his mandate for "change" and a window of opportunity to implement critical reforms to an inept, almost clownish Democratic congressional leadership.
The result: a lingering ideological war in DC exasperated by a compliant NYC and Hollywood media and a misplaced left wing agenda centered on global warming, substandard electric cars and batteries, and taxing the rich that failed to address the immediate ills of the nation. In this climate, there was no compromise or solutions allowed, particularly after the Democrats lost control to Congress to an equally dysfunctional GOP also lacking decent leadership and bent on self destruction over ideological differences of their own.
A second term of office for a president should be one that defines and seals an historical legacy, one in which a certain level of maturity and vision is achieved in the absence of the need to get reelected to office.
Ronald Reagan was the last president to set an agenda and secure a great legacy in his second term. A passionate conservative, his greatness was achieved in saving our country from both economic hardship and decline in stature overseas. He achieved such greatness by being first a seasoned politician that recognized the benefits of engaging in a bipartisan dialogue with the opposition party in a realistic, mature manner.
In his second term, Reagan delineated an historical legacy defined by both his bipartisanship on critical issues and a toughness that resulted the bombing of Gaddafi in Libya and that led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall. He worked with Democrats in Congress to bring about immigration, fiscal policy, and tax reform and the economy's remarkable rebound that set up years of US prosperity and unprecedented economic expansion.
In 2013, changing the climate in Washington by engaging in true bipartisanship and (that dirty word) compromise, not continued campaigning, is the key for Obama to help our country and build a true, lasting legacy as a great president.
But judging from the president's performance at his press conference, and his first few months into his second term, he's refusing to let go of the ideological campaign rhetoric and to mature politically to the benefit of the nation.
Steven Kurlander, Esq. is an attorney and communications strategist from Monticello, N.Y. He blogs at Kurly's Kommentary, The Huffington Post, and for the The Florida Squeeze. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.