Obama Channels Bush's Strategy To Win

President Must Be Wary of Second-Term Dangers

Don’t Take Bait: It is tempting to conclude that the Democrats now enjoy a demographic stranglehold on national politics. But extrapolating from the present into the future with a straight line rarely works out well.
getty images
Don’t Take Bait: It is tempting to conclude that the Democrats now enjoy a demographic stranglehold on national politics. But extrapolating from the present into the future with a straight line rarely works out well.

By Noam Neusner

Published November 07, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

And that was after Bush campaigned on both items, and could claim some kind of political mandate for both. In the end, being re-elected does not convey support for everything one says in a campaign. In many cases, people are holding their noses when they vote.

President Obama should not overlook this problem. Like Bush, he ran a harsh and caustic re-election campaign against his challenger. He did not even bother to run on an agenda other than the preservation and extension of his first-term priorities. Should he try to extrapolate from his political success some kind of mandate for specific policies, he will be repeating a major mistake of his predecessor.

Just as bad would be a deliberate effort to try to make history. Presidents who try and shape their historical legacies often trip over the roots of reality. In Bush’s case, it was Hurricane Katrina. Let’s see what blocks Obama’s path — it may be something big like a war, or something close like a scandal, or something systemic, like a perpetually weak economy (some argue it was Benghazi, but that didn’t trip him). Whatever it is, Obama is right now not accounting for it.

My deepest worry is that it is Israel and Iran. We have not years but months before the moment of truth is reached with Iran and its ambitions to wipe out Israel. There was enough discussion about Iran during the campaign and both the president and his challenger created the impression of bipartisan consensus. Reading what was said during the campaign, the Iranian mullahs themselves expressed no preference for the winner — they saw Obama and Romney as roughly equal evils. I hope, in this case, that the mullahs are right.

But my fear is that Obama will seek in the Middle East the kind of legacy-shaping grand bargain that enticed his predecessors — and then go even bigger.

I worry he will seek to settle all outstanding major issues at once — Iran’s nuclear threat, the ambitions of the Palestinian people, Israel’s long-term borders and Jerusalem. I worry that he will not prepare the nation for the risk of war, when military action is precisely what he will need to threaten Iran with. I worry that he will resort to the kind of “come, let us reason together” rhetoric which ignores both the history and political genetics of the region.

Most of all, I worry that he will confuse political craftsmanship with statesmanship. If he does, he wouldn’t be the first two-term president to do so. In fact, he would be the third in a row. And that’s yet another reason — at least in my case — to hope that straight-line prophecies rarely come true.

Noam Neusner is a principal with the communications firm 30 Point Strategies. He was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.