“The problem for Obama is that right now, the United States is either at a precipice or has fallen off it,” said David Rothkopf, a Commerce Department official in the Clinton administration. “If he is true to his commitment to rather be a good one-term president, then this is the character test. In some respects, this is the 3 a.m. phone call.”
Mr. Obama, Mr. Rothkopf argues, has to focus in the next 18 months on getting the economy back on track for the long haul, even if that means pushing for politically unpalatable budget cuts, including real — but hugely unpopular — reductions in Social Security, other entitlement programs and the military.
A longtime Republican strategist echoed Mr. Rothkopf. Charlie Black, a senior adviser to Senator John McCain when he ran for president, said Mr. Obama “has got two big problems” — the unemployment rate and the budget deficit.
“Frankly, there’s not a whole lot he can do about jobs now,” Mr. Black said. “But it would help if we got the deficit under control, and to do that, you’ve got to reform entitlements.”
For instance, he argued, Mr. Obama should tackle Social Security, leaving the system in place for those 55 and older but establishing means tests to determine benefits for those under 55. If Mr. Obama did that, Mr. Black said, “he could be a hero like Bill Clinton was when he negotiated with Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich” on the 1997 budget.
If Mr. Black’s take is correct and there is little the president can do about jobs, that is more bad news. In a New York Times/CBS News poll released last week, 62 percent of those responding said that creating jobs was the No. 1 priority, while only 29 percent said cutting the deficit should be the top goal.
"Yes, it's true, the public seems to care about jobs, but since we can't do anything about that, Obama should become a 'hero' by making sweeping changes to Social Security."
Seriously, if you're going to go all in on the one term presidency deal, maybe Obama could make a few other "unpopular" choices, like increasing taxes.