In a column last week, the conservative Catholic commentator Michael Brendan Dougherty made the case why even he would miss President Obama, best summed up in this sentence:
And yet, it could have been worse.
It doesn’t seem premature to suggest that it’s about to get worse. Maybe a lot worse.
The most likely indignity up next is President Hillary Clinton. A seething assemblage of mostly-unearned resentments and grievances, Clinton has been in politics so long that even if an adviser had the gumption to tell her she was full of hooey, she would think it impossible. A hawk’s hawk, who would have plunged us headlong into Syria in addition to the Libya excursion, Clinton would make the Democratic Party more bellicose than Obama, and by a lot.
There is also an outside shot that we might install Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Trump is the Nickelback or maybe the Bud Light Lime of presidential candidates, a contemptible, boorish head-shaker that has met with inexplicable success in its category.
Even where Trump is right, like in his occasional thrown-off comment about foreign policy, he is wrong. Trump is right about free-riding (as is Obama, for that matter), right about America being played for suckers by our allies, right that we should pull in our horns a bit. But does anyone think it’s likely Trump could implement, rather than discredit, these ideas if he pursued them?
The arguments for Trump are all about averting greater catastrophe or mere revelry in the extent to which he irritates liberals. Imagine the Supreme Court! Hillary will do something even worse with health care! But does anyone have the slightest idea whom President Trump would nominate as a Supreme Court justice? And from a conservative point of view, it’s tough to do worse than single payer, which Trump consistently favored before becoming a Republican presidential candidate. Finally, the last guy who scratched that irritates-the-liberals itch was Dick Cheney, who helped start the war with Iraq, wanted two more with Iran and Syria, and helped codify among Republicans the idea that the president has plenary authority to fight a war anywhere, anytime on nothing more than a whim.
Which brings us… back to Obama. The guy is going to stick around DC for a while anyway. If he is half the power-hungry imperial president that my former colleagues say he is, he might be able to argue or intimidate his way into another term or two.
But Obama is what Trump and Clinton are not. Obama is cautious, to the point of being almost plodding. He is boring. What others knocked him for throughout his presidency, being aloof and professorial, is in fact his greatest asset. Obama has a sense of humor like neither Clinton nor Trump has. And it might be worth seeing if the guy would follow up his public complaining about free-riding allies with doing something about free-riding allies.
I disagree with Obama on some of the policies I care most about. I think some of his policies are downright evil. I wouldn’t vote for the guy. And he isn’t going to look for a way around the 22nd Amendment anyway. But look at it this way: A third Obama term would make the GOP white hot, which likely would prevent Obama from getting any moonshot policy passed. (We might get down to six or seven Supreme Court justices.) It would also give the GOP a bit longer in time-out. Another chance to consider how it got itself into this mess and find a more plausible way out than nominating someone who shares a second-most-famous-attribute with Kim Kardashian.
The Obama Presidency: It could have been worse. It’s got a ring to it.