This week, New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin wrote an article titled, “One Speech Can Reclaim O’s Dignity." In it, Goodwin recounts the courage of then President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 when he made a 35-minute speech indicating that he would not run for reelection; he wanted to dedicate the balance of his tenure in office to deescalating hostilities with North Vietnam. By doing so, according to Goodwin, Johnson was able to “reclaim the moral high ground by putting country first.”
This selfless act should serve as an example to President Barack Obama. Under his stewardship, the U.S. has fallen into a deep malaise economically and politically. He should consider following in the footsteps of Johnson, not run in 2012, and focus on the problems of the country.
By way of history, Johnson introduced the “Great Society,” which gave America the Civil Right Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and PBS. His domestic accomplishments were nothing short of outstanding. Notwithstanding all of these great social changes, Johnson’s presidency was severely damaged by the Vietnam War; he was a defeated man despised by a majority of Americans, who clamored for an end to the conflict in Southeast Asia. Similarly, America has been torn asunder by recent events and needs help to get back on track.
The Obama presidency is at a nadir. Obama’s approval rating is at 20%, the lowest rating during his tenure. In fairness, some people feel the president has succeeded in some areas, including eliminating "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," reforming health care, and capturing Osama bin Laden. But he has disappointed many others by his inability to lead us through, admittedly, a very tough period in American history.
His response during the initial stages of the current recession was inadequate and has extended the crisis. His decision to pursue medical reform and set aside job creation was misguided, as high unemployment persists. His inability to meet the challenges presented by a divided Congress resulted in his caving during the tax debate in December and again in the recent negotiations on the debt ceiling. The international community has no confidence in Obama’s influence domestically.
If Obama didn't have to run for reelection, he would be able to spend the balance of his time in office finding solutions for the debilitating problems affecting the country, rather than conducting an exhausting political campaign. Perhaps he could even use his skills to mediate a peace between the warring factions in Congress.
Goodwin has referred to a very similar moment in history when a sitting president was unable to lead and applied it to the plight of the Obama administration. There are many parallels that should not be ignored.
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