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Keller @ Large: Can Obama Avoid ‘Second Term Curse’?

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WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – President Obama begins his second term Monday, and I’m sure all Americans of goodwill join me in wishing him good luck.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

If history means anything, he’s going to need it.

The so-called “second-term curse” on presidential administrations may be superstition, or it may not be.

Second terms do seem to generate declining approval ratings, policy blunders and scandal.

Consider the record over the last seventy years: as the late, great David Broder pointed out, since the 1940s, Ronald Reagan was the only two-term president still popular enough at the end to see a member of his own party succeed him.

The president is an avid student of history and surely knows all about this. We can only hope he’s studying the second-term experience of one of his predecessors that seems especially relevant.

This president, Broder noted at the time, was coming off a strong re-election win, with gains for his party in both branches of Congress. He “claimed a mandate for an array of initiatives,” including costly new domestic spending at a time of soaring budget deficits.

And, Broder wrote, “as if all that were not enough, the president has placed at the top of his agenda the revision of…basic American institutions, seeking fundamental changes that would alter the lives of virtually every American.”

All of this was to be accomplished in a bitter, polarized climate where the opposition was determined to block most of the president’s agenda.

Can you name this president?

Sure you can, it was George W. Bush, and his second term was an historic flop, marked by gridlock, cronyism, poor judgment, and in the end, record-low poll numbers.

It would be hard for our current president to fare worse in his second term than President Bush did, but he could easily match his futility unless he offers a pragmatic agenda that balances legacy-building with credible economic rebuilding.

Remember what the villain used to say at the end of those old Western movie shorts, as he slunk away in defeat like a re-elected president: “Curses. Foiled again.”

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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