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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Obama Following LBJ Into Retirement, Not Reagan Into a Landslide Victory?

In March of 1968, President Johnson famously announced that he would "not seek, nor accept" the Democrat nomination for President in the 1968 general election. His announcement was a shock to supporters and detractors alike. Much has been said over the years about how LBJ refused to run for a second term out of fear he would lose because of Vietnam. He was polling well in the spring of '68, but the general discontent with establishment politics was forming a dark cloud over LBJ's presidency, and Vietnam was only one symptom of a deeper problem.

To close associates he used his fear of dying in office as his main reason for retiring. His father and grandfather had both died at age 64, and in fact LBJ died when he was 64 - two days after his second term would have ended.

LBJ brought America some grand visions. Medicare and the Great Society chief among them. He was in office during a time of great change in American society, a time of change that can only be put in focus through the filter of history.

President Obama is facing far worse poll numbers and he is also in office during a time of deep discontent over establishment politics. We should also consider the string of potential political killers that are only going to get more attention as we approach the general election next year.
  • Solyndra
  • Fast and Furious
  • Obamacare
  • American Jobs Act and ineffective stimulus bills
  • Stubborn unemployment hovering around 9.1%
  • Historic deficits
  • Stagnation in Afghanistan and instability in Iraq
  • Loss of Majority in the House and a tenuous grip on the majority in the Senate
President Obama is a brilliant campaigner, a mediocre politician and a deficient leader. He is also filled with the hubris required to seek higher office. All of these factors may very well intersect to cause President Obama to mirror LBJ's reluctance to undergo the bruising that will surely come in a run for a second term. While it still seems unlikely, if the bad news continues to pile up, we may very well see President Obama follow in the footsteps of LBJ, not Carter, Reagan or Clinton.

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