03/11/2013 03:59 pm ET Updated May 11, 2013

The 12.5 Percent Presidency

The conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C., is that President Obama has 180 days to move his agenda before the 2014 mid-term elections begin to freeze the public policy process.


The Constitution establishes each presidential term at four years, not six months. Nowhere did the Founders write that when a mid-term election cycle begins, the president becomes a lame duck who shifts gears from the world's most powerful leader to a mere custodian of the federal bureaucracy.

If the logic of the 180-day presidency is that Obama won't be able to get anything through Congress once the mid-term campaigns begin, then the president might as well spend his entire term golfing in Hawaii. These days, members of Congress and the political parties are in election mode 100 percent of the time. And with a few exceptions, Republicans in Congress aren't inclined to act on the president's agenda anyway.

The conventional wisdom about a 12.5 percent presidential term is contradicted by another piece of conventional wisdom in Washington: that the president can use executive authorities to move his agenda forward, at least to an extent. That conventional wisdom is correct.

Four more years is precious little time for the Obama administration to address the big and persistent issues on which we've reached the 11th hour, including America's transition to clean energy and away from climate disruption. President Obama will need every day of his second term to tackle issues like those, and the conventional wisdom should expect no less.