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A second term

Irish Echo Editorial

In a few days the result will be in after voters in all fifty states cast their ballots for the next president. At the time of writing, it looks like a toss-up between President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. Close elections are good things in that they exercise more minds than might be the case if a runaway win by one candidate seems the likely outcome.

This year, voters have been presented with vigorous argument from both incumbent and challenger, and campaigns and debates that have had an especially significant and broad impact on the battle for the White House.

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Mitt Romney, to the surprise of many in both parties, and those who do not link themselves to either party, has shown himself to be a worthy challenger.

It's clear that many voters, perhaps even a majority, think that he should be the next president. Equally, it's evident that many voters, again perhaps a majority, feel that President Obama deserves a second term, and the kind of mandate that comes with being elected to that second four years.

A one term presidency always leaves questions in its wake, a sense of promise unfulfilled.

The two most recent examples are the presidencies of President George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.

In the case of Carter, the extraordinary challenge posed by the Iranian hostage crisis, the disastrous attempt to rescue them, economic hardship at home, and the challenge of an especially formidable rival for office, Ronald Reagan, consigned the 39th president to the category of a one-termer. To this day, the decision of voters in 1982 still retains the aura of being clear cut.

With regards to President Bush, there is, by contrast, a lingering sense that he might have been unlucky, a bit hard done by. Bush was, to say the least, a presidential president. Yes, he did seem a bit uniformed regarding the daily cares of voters, but he was far from being hard hearted.

What did happen in 1992 is that "Bush One" walked into an electoral maelstrom that was a combination of a tough economy and the opposition of not one, but two, formidable candidates: Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.

Barack Obama is facing one opponent, again, a candidate who has emerged as a hard fighter and skilled debater.

As much as the question as to whether Obama deserves to be reelected, there is the question as to whether or not he deserves to be fired from the job based on the record amassed during his four years in office.

We are inclined to respond no to this question and here's why. Yes, the economy is still in trouble, but it is not in the kind of freefall that was the case four years ago. Obama, though he does come across as being a bit aloof at times, does seem to feel the pulse of ordinary Americans trying to make ends meet, or secure a job against the backdrop of unemployment numbers that, while unacceptable, were previously worse, and could have been worse again but for the president's particular part in the economy's stewardship.

But our deciding factor in favoring a second four years is born from the sense that President Obama cannot be judged without factoring in the record of Congress these past four years. If any entity deserves a pink slip, it is this Congress which looks all too often like a class in need of a teacher.

Should Governor Romney be elected president on Nov. 6 it can only be hoped that he is shown more respect and afforded greater cooperation from Congress than has been the case with President Obama and the two congressional combinations that have presided during his, Obama's, four years in Washington.

Had the president benefited from less congressional obstruction than has been the case, and if the economy was in the same shape that it is now, then the case against his reelection would actually be stronger.

Presidents come in for a lot of criticism, most of it legitimate and some of it nonsense. This president has had to tolerate more nonsense than most, nonsense that has been both distracting and sometimes downright insulting.

President George W. Bush came in for a lot of criticism too, but he would rightly remind people that while you might have no time for the occupant of the office, you must always respect the office. This implies respect for the verdict of the voters and the electoral system. By that measure, so-called "birthers," have shown little respect for the decision of the majority in 2008.

Has Barack Obama been such an outstanding president that he deserves a clear run to a second term?

Well, it would seem that the electorate isn't prepared to give him that clear run. He is having to fight, and fight hard, for a second term.

But that's a healthy state of affairs, and it should make Barack Obama a better president over the next four years.