Alter: Obama Reveals He May Be One-Term President

Wednesday, 19 May 2010 08:07 PM

By Jim Meyers

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President Obama has failed in one of the most important jobs a president faces: persuading the country to follow him, says Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter, author of a new book about Obama’s first year in office.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Alter also says Obama will move to the right if Democrats lose big in the midterm elections. Alter predicts he could face a primary challenge from both the left and the right in 2012, and suggests the possibility that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Biden could switch places in a second term – although Alter reveals that Obama feels he could be a one-term president.

Alter’s newly released book, “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” has garnered major media attention for its riveting insider’s perspective on what happened during Obama’s first year.

Editor’s Note: Buy Jonathan Alter’s new book, Click Here Now.

Asked whether Obama has followed his campaign promise to govern in a bipartisan manner, Alter responds: “No, he hasn’t. That was something he just could not make good on in the presidency, that idea of being more bipartisan.

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“He tried to put some Republicans in the Cabinet. He does have Bob Gates, who is a Republican and has been in Republican administrations, as his most influential member of the Cabinet, Secretary of Defense.

“But it is quite true that he has not governed in a bipartisan way, and I think there’s enough blame for this to go around.”

Alter discloses in his book that, “in the first week of his presidency, Obama went up to Capitol Hill and met with the Republican caucus on the House side — no Democrats — and he wanted their input on the stimulus.

“He had already agreed to more than $300 billion in tax cuts, but he wanted to see if he could get some agreement from the Republicans on spending increases. [House Minority Leader] John Boehner told all the Republicans before the meeting, none of us are voting for Obama’s stimulus plan,” Alter tells Newsmax.TV.

“So in a sense, Obama was extending his hand to at least try to be bipartisan, and it was just brushed away by the Republicans. It was in their political interest, as we are now finding out, not to cooperate.

“After that, I think a lot of Obama’s efforts at bipartisanship were kind of phony. He just wanted credit for looking bipartisan, and at that point pretty early in his presidency had given up on real bipartisanship.”

No president’s approval ratings have ever tumbled as quickly as Obama’s in such a short period of time, Alter acknowledges, but he refers to a new NBC News poll showing “that Obama’s personal favorable ratings are higher at this point in his term than either Reagan or Clinton.

“One thing that is clear, though, is that the public doesn’t really approve of his program. They kind of like him personally. They don’t like the direction right now that he’s taking the country.

“He has failed in his first year in one of the most important jobs that any president has, which is to persuade the country to follow him.”

Alter’s book, released this week, makes reference to Obama’s temper. He was asked whether the president has a short fuse.

“He does not lose his cool, but in some ways it’s scarier — kind of this icy stare,” Alter says.

“He gets very upset about leaks. Instead of talking about what he should be talking about that day, he’s obsessing on these leaks.”

Comparing Bill Clinton and Obama on their handling of the presidency, Alter notes that, on healthcare, Clinton failed to pass reform legislation while Obama succeeded, “immaterial of whether one feels it’s a stinking bill or something that’s good for the country.

“Just on the success or failure level, he’s achieved more than Clinton at this point. But it’s early yet. He has a hundred ways to fail. And Clinton had some real successes later on in his term.

“We’ll see what happens to Obama. He told me he could be a one-term president.”

After losing Congress in 1994, Clinton moved to the right and center and signed such legislation as welfare reform. Asked whether Obama might do the same if Democrats take a big hit in November, Alter responds: “I think he will. He’s a pragmatist. I don’t see him as a real ideologue. He’s an idealist in some ways, but he wants to do what works. He’s not really into tilting at windmills.”

Alter was also asked, if Obama’s approval numbers continue to erode, could he face a primary challenge from someone like Hillary Clinton or Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, who has said he is not seeking re-election this year.

“Hillary Clinton, I would say absolutely not,” Alter declares.

“There would have to be something that they were divided on that was much more profound on issue grounds.

“I think it would be more likely that she and [Joe] Biden would trade places — maybe she becomes vice president if Obama is re-elected, to tee her up for 2016.

“Could Evan Bayh or someone else decide to challenge Obama from the right? Absolutely. I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s actually possible. There’s a lot of history of that in American politics.

“And it’s even possible, if he moves right after the midterms, you could see a very liberal challenge to him from the left that would complicate his political existence.”

Could that challenge come from Howard Dean? Alter said: “I would not rule that out.”

Editor’s Note: Buy Jonathan Alter’s new book, Click Here Now.

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