Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another Woodrow Wilson?

Michael Barone, at the National Review, muses about what Obama would be like if re-elected. While if Obama loses, he would be compared to Carter, Barone compares Obama to Wilson if he were to be reelected. He writes:
When Americans voted in November 1916, World War I had been raging in Europe for more than two years. Hundreds of thousands were dying in trench warfare, and Wilson ran on the slogan “He kept us out of war.”

Wilson’s second term was wholly unlike his first. In April 1917, he went before Congress and got approval for a declaration of war against Germany. A military draft was instituted, a law was passed criminalizing antiwar protests, the railroads were nationalized, and the top income-tax rate was raised to 77 percent.

Wilson’s idealistic postwar plans were frustrated when the Treaty of Versailles was rejected by the Senate. Revolutionaries set off bombs on Wall Street and outside the attorney general’s house. Wilson’s party lost the 1920 election by 60 to 34 percent.

This history is unlikely to be repeated if Obama is reelected. But Obama’s problem, apparent in the feisty second presidential debate as well as in the first, is that voters don’t know what he would do — beyond what he has done so far — in a second term.

His specific proposals — 100,000 teachers, infrastructure “investment” — are retreads. He is less specific on tax policy and budget deficits than Romney.

Presidents who get reelected have usually offered second-term agendas. Obama hasn’t, especially on the economy. As a reelected president, he would be as free of constraints as Wilson was.

Voters must hope that a second Obama term won’t be as disastrous as the second Wilson term. Democrats must hope it’s not as disastrous for their party.

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