Saturday, February 21, 2015

What Should Obama Do in Retirement?

When his second term of office ends on January 20, 2017, Barack Obama will be 55 years old. What will he do next?

There are a lot of possibilities.

If Hillary Clinton is elected President in 2016 Barack could return the favor that Hillary extended to him by agreeing to serve in her administration. Much as Lincoln's "Team of Rivals" drew the Union together for the looming challenge of the Civil War, Hillary's appointment as Secretary of State bolstered Barack's credibility with our foreign allies and strengthened his hand with our enemies when we were desperately fighting (and losing) two wars. Her presence in the Cabinet served to reassure Wall Street, the banks, and manufacturers and to restore consumer confidence in a time of deep economic crisis. As the other pillar of the Democratic Party she also helped Barack to unify Democrats as they geared up to enact universal coverage for health care, which had been her signal goal as First Lady. Barack could similarly lend his prestige to help launch Hillary's administration, perhaps as Ambassador to the United Nations.

Before he entered politics Barack taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago School of Law, and he might choose to return to that realm -- not to academia, but to the interpretation of the Constitution. He might seek or accept appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. Barack would not be the first former President of the United States to ascend to the High Court: William Howard Taft served as Chief Justice from 1921 to 1930, and considered it a higher honor than being President. Howard had been a capable but clumsy politician; he vastly preferred the quiet contemplation of the law to the messy implementation of it.

But the monkish judicial life does not seem suited to the former community organizer, and Barack might well prefer to follow the example of Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King, Jr., promoting racial equality, economic opportunity, and world peace. Martin -- the greatest American of the 20th century -- expended his brief life's brilliant energy fighting racism, poverty, and war. Jimmy is admired for his good works -- Habitat for Humanity has inspired millions of Americans to enrich the lives of their fellow citizens, and Jimmy is known around the world as a fair and honest man who can be trusted to oversee elections or mediate disputes. 

What will Barack do? I have great expectations for him.

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