“There are no second acts in American lives.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.
There is a fascinating new figure upon the American political landscape. An ex-president who may actually play a significant political role: Barrack Hussein Obama.
Most ex-presidents either quickly fade away into obscurity; like George W. Bush, or knock around seeking something to do – like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. In the history of our nation only two ex-presidents; John Quincy Adams and William Howard Taft, actually had successful careers after leaving office.
Adams was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he enjoyed a long and successful legislative career. Among other things John Quincy was the leading opponent and critic of slavery and its supporters, and the author of successful legislation. When Adams’ greatest enemy; President Andy Jackson, needed to push a controversial tariff bill through, he turned to John Quincy for help. Taft happily taught law at Yale for a few years before Warren G. Harding appointed him to his dream job: Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Most ex-presidents turn out to be peripheral; and often pathetic, figures unable to play a significant role in politics. Only one ex-president; Grover Cleveland, was ever reelected after sitting out a term. Several others; including Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore and Teddy Roosevelt, sought another term and never even won their own party’s nominations. Van Buren and Roosevelt ended up running on third party tickets after their own parties rejected them.
What next for Obama?
This brings us to Barrack Obama who obviously wants to maintain a public role. He and Michelle are house hunting in Washington D.C. and planning to stay in that city. Yet is clear Obama has no desire to return to the Senate, he rejected a Congressional career by running for president.
What will that role be? Three possibilities come to mind; the first of which is as some sort of media commentator or professional guest. Obama will certainly be sought after on the Sunday morning talk show circuit and in foreign media. He might also become a regular on one of the TV networks; such as Fox News which is desperately seeking dignity after the demise of Bill O’Reilly.
The second is as a professional political consultant advising Democrats and perhaps foreign office seekers. Such a role raises ethical concerns but it would keep Obama in the game he enjoys.
A third possibility is that Obama will return to his old job as a law professor. This would present logistical problems – will the Secret Service put metal detectors in front of his classroom and search students’ bags?
Have the Republicans Cleared a Path to the Supreme Court for Obama?
Yet it would position Obama to follow in Taft’s footsteps to the U.S. Supreme Court by establishing him as a legal authority. This of course will have to wait until we have a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic U.S. Senate.
Such a scenario is likely in 2021, because of Donald J. Trump’s unpopularity and changing demographics. It is also obvious that the first job of that new president will be to fill at least one Supreme Court seat. Two of the Justices, Ginsburg and Kennedy are over 80, and a third, Breyer is close to that age.
The only thing standing between Obama and the Supreme Court at that point would be Senate Republicans. Yet strangely enough the Republicans may have stripped themselves of their power to keep a future president from appointing Obama to the Supreme Court.
On April 5, the Senate Republicans changed that body’s rules to adopt the so-called nuclear option. Now that the nuclear option is Senate procedure, it takes a simple 51 vote majority to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Under the old rules, 60 votes were needed; which enabled a few diehards or troublemakers to block nominees.
This explains why Senate Democrats did not fight hard against the nuclear option, and why they will make no efforts to reverse it. Senate Minority Chuck Schumer (D-New York) understands that his party will now have an easy job of appointing justices once they get back in control.
That will clear the way for a gridlocked and politically polarized Supreme Court that resembles the current U.S. Congress. It will also make Republicans wish they had never put the nuclear option on the table.
Keep a close eye on Obama folks, he’s fairly young and he wants to leave more of a legacy than a library. The logical place to do that is the Supreme Court and Republicans have just made it a lot easier for him to achieve that goal.