The times, they are a-changing. Get on board or get left behind.
President Obama should be aware of the pitfalls that awaits the "second-termer". I am certain that he knows of LBJ; of Nixon; of Reagan; of Clinton and of George W. Here is a brief history:- First Johnson, the accidental president who gave the country, the vision of the Great Society and then followed through with the Voting Rights Act (allowing African-Americans, especially in the South, to vote freely and equally), Medicare and Medicaid etc but was felled by Vietnam "I shall not seek, nor will I accept the nomination of my party for the presidency" and faded away a broken man. Nixon, who lost the presidency to JFK in 1960 and then the governership of California to George Brown and famously uttered that "you wont have Nixon to kick again", came back in 1968 and squeaked out a victory against Humphrey. In 1972, running on the platform of ending the Vietnam war with an "honorable peace", instead extended the war which cost thousands more lives but still trounced " the peacenik" McGovern very easily. He was however caught up in the small burglary but the big lie of Watergate and was hounded out of office, waving defiantly and still muttering tha "I am not a crook"
Ronald Reagan, the 'amiable dunce" defeated the "wimp" Carter in 1980. He had kissed the blarney stone, sold America ( even as he sold products for G.E. in the 50s), a positive vision of the future " as a beacon of light". He gave the country "voodoo economics", that eventually led to the 1987 failed "Savings and Loans" economic meltdown, had won re-election in 1984, defeating Mondale, mainly on the issue of military strength ( he expanded the defence budget to the highest in peacetime and saddled America with a huge debt). The failed assassination attempt in 1982 had turned him into an American icon.He supported right-wing military dictatorship in South and Central America, from Argentina to Nicaragua ( in the words of his U.N. ambassador, Jeanne Kirkpatrick "They are our dictators") but he was eventually done in by the Iran-Contra Affair and left office with a grin and a tainted halo. He gave the country a huge debt, "constructive engagement" with apartheid South Africa and "plausible deniablity" ( when he did not want to answer a question from reporters, he would turn his injured ear to them and pretended that he did not hear the question or he would wait for his wife Nancy to tell him what to say).
Clinton won re-election in 1996, defeating Bob Dole, on the basis of the economic upturn. His economic policies, had rescued the country from the Reagan/Bush "supply side", "voodoo economics" and "read my lips. No new taxes", huge budget deficit and exploding national debt and had ushered in years of economic growth, but he was felled by the Lewinsky affair " I did not have sex, with that woman", was impeached by the House but avoided conviction by the Senate. He has been rehabilitated as America's 'eminence grise', spending his time campaigning for Democrats and for a better world, free from disease and poverty, "The comeback kid".
Goerge W. won re-election, defeating John Kerry in 2000 ( both his victories were tainted, Florida in 1996 and Ohio in 2000 tainted ballots. It is said that his first victory was an"election by the Supreme Court"). 9/11 happened on his first watch, but he used it to the fullest by declaring war on terrorism, started a war with Iraq and another with the Taliban/al Qaeda in Afghanistan, increased defence spending, bankrupted the country economically, ( undoing the seven years of Clinton growth and the budget surpluses). He had won re-election with his his "You are with me or you are against me", declared "mission accomplished", mishandled the New Orleans ( You are doing a great job, Brownie), flood relief, and left office, disappearing to his Waco ranch, with jokes about his ineptitude ringing in his ears.
President Obama ended the war in Iraq, bailed out the banks, saved the auto- industry, introduced his health-care plan, revived/ restored Americas reputation which was in tatters,especially with allies, improved the economy and winding down the war in Afghanistan, won re-election in 2012. That he was able to do so much, when hamstrung by a "say no" Republican House is a testament to his team and his leadership.
The second term begins now. He has a somewhat chastened Republican House but that does not mean that they will not drive a hard bargain on the budget, Social Security and Immigration reform, infrastructure rebuilding and other domestic issues. It is foreign policy, mainly in the Middle East, that will test him. His dealings with a more right-wing,religious, settler-driven Israel; the nuclear program with Iran; the civil war in Syria; the growing al Qaeda network in North Africa, Egypt, Libya and the Arab Spring, a full plate. Then there is China, but this will not be as testing as China's growth and reliance on trade with especially the US, will be the the guiding light. It is China's dealings with Japan and other countries over disputed territories that is worrisome, but this too will be tied to China's needs and especially trade and investments. The two-track policy of security and trade , together with the internal pressures , jobs, the economy, environmental issues, ethnic tensions will demand that China's new leaders tread a careful path and this may make for a more amenable China.
Good luck Mr. President. You have 18-24 months and then you become a lame-duck, for the next two years, but this is the period when you need to be very careful, this is when mistakes are made, so do not let down your guard and become careless. There are many "enemies" at the gate, waiting to pounce.