By John Feehery - 08/09/11 11:43 PM EDT
Barack Obama just turned 50 years old. He is still a young man (by contemporary standards). He still plays basketball regularly; he likes to golf; he enjoys spending quality time with his daughters.
I have an idea for him. He should announce that he is taking a break at the end of next year from politics. Instead of running for reelection, Obama should tell the country he is going into private business.
He can always run again. He can pull a Cleveland. Grover Cleveland was the only president to win two non-consecutive terms, losing to Benjamin Harrison in-between. Obama can take the high road and leave while the leaving is good.
The president needs some real-world experience. Imagine how much better he would do with the experience of having to meet a payroll or worry about the P&L Statement. Imagine how much more sympathetic he would be if he actually understood how his healthcare law would make it harder to hire people. Imagine if he actually understood that by “spreading the wealth around,” the government actually makes it harder for the economy to grow.
Obama could start small. Maybe he and Michelle could go into business together. That way he could understand the struggles of small-business owners. Of course, as an ex-president, he would also serve on a couple of corporate boards. That’s OK too. Obama still has a lot to learn about how the big-business sector thinks and acts.
By announcing that he is taking a break now, the president can take politics out of the fiscal crisis equation. He could do the right thing to cure the entitlement problem. Since he wouldn’t be running for reelection next year, he wouldn’t have to worry about a challenge from a left-wing primary. He could move to the center and actually get some real stuff done.
If the president did that, he would leave with his reputation intact. Hillary Clinton would likely run in his place, and perhaps Jeb Bush would jump in the race. Either way, if Hillary or Jeb ran, they would likely win reelection, which would mean that in eight years, Obama could run again. He would be 58, with a lot more experience under his belt. He would be a formidable candidate, and because he would still have a good reputation (because he left at the right time), he would be more popular than ever.
The president cares about his place in history (all presidents do). He can be a true hero to all if he announces he is quitting now to gain some more experience in the private sector. Who knows? He might learn something.
Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and spent 15 years working in the House Republican leadership. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com.