Tags: Barack Obama | ISIS/Islamic State | mack mclarty | presidency | Congress

Mack McLarty: Obama Can Salvage Final Years in Office

By    |   Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 01:32 PM

President Barack Obama could accomplish much in his final two years in office despite widespread doubts and discontent about his likely influence, said former President Bill Clinton's chief of staff Mack McLarty.

In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, McLarty said that he and fellow West Wing veterans agree that Obama's presidency is far from over, and noted that every two-term president in the last century has faced "predictions of irrelevance, disarray, and failure."

"The last two years of a second term can be among the most eventful. President Reagan negotiated an arms deal with the Soviet Union. President Bill Clinton led a war in Kosovo and sealed a trade pact with China. President George W. Bush authorized the 'surge' in Iraq and unprecedented steps to combat a global financial meltdown," McLarty wrote.

McLarty acknowledged that the path for Obama following the midterm elections could be a rocky one, particularly since Americans are demanding more leadership in the face of emerging international crises. But if anything, he argued, that will give Obama more power to act autonomously.

"As he reaches his fourth quarter, President Obama confronts an array of complex international crises, including Islamic State jihadists, the Ebola outbreak and Russian militancy in Eastern Europe — with perhaps more waiting in the wings," McLarty wrote.

"What each has in common is a requirement of clear U.S. leadership. After an early stumble in assessing Islamic State, the administration has built support for its policies, enlisted allies and followed words with action. We need to see consistent resolve in addressing Ebola and other challenges."

McLarty reflected on the presidencies of Clinton and Ronald Reagan, nothing that both used their final periods in office to transcend the constraints of their own parties.

In Reagan's case, he said, he forced an historical deal on nuclear missiles with the Soviet Union despite conservative protests. Clinton, meanwhile, bypassed the Democratic base to develop trade relations with China and help Colombia fight against drug cartels and left-wing guerrillas.

McLarty acknowledges that Obama may have more difficulty making headway on the domestic front than in managing international policy, particularly if Republicans are fully in control of Congress.

Nevertheless, he said, other presidents have also spent the last two years of their second terms with both houses of Congress controlled by the opposing party, but found ways to achieve key elements of their agendas.

"There are three major policy areas where President Obama is already within striking distance of a deal with Republicans in Congress: tax reform, trade and immigration. Each would be a heavy lift, but all are achievable," he wrote.

McLarty said he believes Obama has the discipline and skill to lead a divided nation during a period of escalating international crises and domestic gridlock, and thinks the president is aware that Americans as well as allies around the world are looking for leadership.

"President Obama has been attuned to this hunger when he has described his role in moving the country forward, comparing himself to a 'relay swimmer in a river full of rapids, and that river is history,'" he wrote.

"We are all of us together in those rapids. It's sink or swim."

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President Barack Obama could accomplish much in his final two years in office despite widespread doubts and discontent about his likely influence, said former President Bill Clinton's chief of staff Mack McLarty.
mack mclarty, presidency, Congress
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2014-32-21
Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 01:32 PM
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