Radical Agenda

Bold Moves Obama Can Only Make in His Second Term (PHOTOS)

Golfing with Tiger! Banning guns! David Sessions on what Obama couldn’t have gotten away with last term.

Pool photo by Charles Dharapak

Pool photo by Charles Dharapak


WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: U.S. President Barack Obama is greeted before his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on February 12, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Facing a divided Congress, Obama is expected to focus his speech on new initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy. (Photo by Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images)

Pool photo by Charles Dharapak

Golfing with Tiger Woods! New bangs! Banning guns! It didn’t take long for the Obamas to make clear they’re going to live Barack’s second term on the edge. Now that the election’s in the bag, David Sessions sorts through the provocative moves the president could never have gotten away with in the first term—plus a few he should try next.

AP (2)

Golfing with Tiger Woods

Less than a year into Obama’s first term, the National Enquirer broke the story of the year that began a tornado of scandal for the world’s former No. 1 golfer and highest-paid athlete. Woods admitted to extramarital affairs with multiple women, ended his marriage, and became radioactive to the big sponsors who had previously paid him millions. Obama is famous for his “golf habit”—he played more than 100 rounds in his first term, compared with George W. Bush’s 24 rounds in eight years—and has a tight-knit “golf circle.” Obama knows golf buddies can get him in trouble: when his friend and play partner Bobby Titcomb was arrested in a prostitution sting in 2011, the press was quick to highlight the connection. But now that the election’s out of the way, Obama must feel he can forget his reputation: not only did he invite the formerly sex-addicted Tiger Woods to play with him, but he kept out the press, instigating one of the stupidest Beltway kerfuffles of the year so far.

Chuck Kennedy/White House

Getting Bangs

All eyes were glued to Michelle Obama’s wardrobe from the moment she hit the campaign trail with Barack in 2008, and her fashion choices have often provoked vigorous public debate. Was her election-night dress ugly? Were her shorts too short? Should she have worn the same dress twice? Is her ass too big? Overzealous punditry aside, Michelle has mostly been praised for her bold but tasteful wardrobe. But just days before the Obamas’ second term was set to begin, she unvealed her edgiest look yet: a new set of bangs, just in time for the inaugural balls. As the analysis of her haircut reached fever pitch—including a condemnation from Karl Lagerfeld—Michelle joked that the change was brought on by a “midlife crisis.” The real reason: the last votes were in the bag.

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty

Letting Beyoncé Lip-Sync the National Anthem

It was a perfect American moment: America’s biggest pop star belting out “The Star-Spangled Banner” in front of the first family, piercing the frigid January air with her lungs of steel. Perfect, that is, until we found out she was doing nothing of the kind. Beyoncé had a prerecorded vocal track, and her heart-swelling performance was all just a big deception. Obama would never have let this happen in his first term, when he was careful to hire weather-defying superheroes like Aretha Franklin. Even the slightly less imposing Kelly Clarkson could have delivered a live performance, as she did later in the ceremony, if the White House hadn’t been so enamored of star wattage and technical perfection. Like Obama told Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: you can get away with anything in the second term.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Taking Away Our Guns

We knew it was coming! You don’t elect a Kenyan anti-colonialist and expect he won’t take try to take away white people’s guns. After Obama’s 2008 campaign gaffe about voters who “cling to guns and religion,” he must have known he’d have to be careful, and his first four years were conspicuously gun-free. But on the eve of his second inauguration, Obama made clear the next round would be different: he proposed reinstating the assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004 and making background checks a requirement for all gun purchases. Those may be tiny steps toward a saner gun policy, but they would have been politically suicidal in 2008 or 2010. But the second term? Time to pull the trigger.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Picking an Anti-War Secretary of Defense

Throughout his first term, the once passionately anti-war Obama tread as lightly as possible, keeping a litany of Bush war policies in place, escalating the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan, and embracing his role as the “killer president” who got Osama bin Laden. While Obama certainly isn’t going back to peace and love, he has shown signs he’s confident enough as commander in chief to dial things back a little. His most symbolic stand against the Pentagon-industrial complex came when he nominated former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel to be his new secretary of defense. A Vietnam veteran, the Republican is less enthusiastic about military meddling than most of colleages on both sides of the aisle. War lovers like John McCain and Lindsey Graham particularly despise him, and his confirmation battle has been long, ugly, and full of character assassination. Obama knew this was coming, and you get the feeling he thought, "It's the second term—bring it on."

Fred Prouser/Reuters, via Landov

Attacking Fox News

The antagonism between the Obama administration and the conservative cable news network has been intense and venomous. Throughout the first term, Fox led the charge against Obama’s legislative agenda and drummed up support for the Tea Party blow that struck him in the 2010 midterm elections. A whole crew of Obama officials—Robert Gibbs, Anita Dunn, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod—struck back, saying Fox wasn’t really a news outlet and was a “a wing of the Republican Party.” Once he was safely back in office, a victory that sent Fox into temporary meltdown, Obama decided to go on the offensive himself. In an interview with The New Republic, Obama said Fox “punishing” GOP lawmakers for ideological betrayal was keeping Washington from making progress on important issues. Fox chairman Roger Roger Ailes shot back that Obama was trying to “get everybody to hate each other,” but he’d already lost the battle: his high-profile efforts to keep Obama from winning a second term flopped with a resounding thud.

Steve Ruark/AP

Next: Biking With Lance Armstrong

Obama confined his first-term biking to a cozy comfort zones: leisurely rides while on vacation with his family, with helmets. But we all know he’s an athlete at heart—good enough that he can impress Tiger Woods with his golf game. So why not ramp up the cycling in the second term by spending a little time with Lance Armstrong, an intense route with the man who’s won the Tour de France more times than anyone in history? Sure, Armstrong was buying all those yellow shirts with illicit performance-enhancing drugs and self-righteously lying about it for years. But Obama’s never running for office again, so he can take off and leave the moralists in the dust.

Walter McBride/Corbis

Next: Eating at Guy Fieri’s Times Square Restaurant

In countless campaign stops and presidential fast-food visits, Obama has indulged in the full gamut of American heart-attack specialities: hot dogs, corn dogs, pizza, waffles, “half-smokes,” and more. Now that he’s got no more voters to outrage when he calls out foods that don’t fit their regional identities (see: Arugulagate 2007), Obama can eat whatever he damn well pleases. So he might as well go for broke and make a presidential visit to Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square, which is so comforting and heart-attacky that a scathing New York Times review of it went viral last year. Even if he disappointed the arugula-eating, New York Times–reading segment of his base, he would leave a lasting legacy with real American chain-restaurant diners.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Next: Going On An ‘Apology Tour’

Throughout the 2012 GOP primary season, Republican presidential hopefuls wanted Obama to circle the globe apologizing for America so badly that they pretended he had so they could attack him for it. Their “apology tour” meme had started back in 2009, when Obama made a conciliatory speech to a Muslim audience in Cairo, which right-wingers promptly attacked as, in Charles Krauthammer’s words, “a basket of mea culpas.” Mitt Romney picked up the theme in the general election, even mentioning it in a debate. But now that Obama’s beaten the heralds of his imaginary apology tour, he could go on a real one. There are plenty of people around the world America owes an apology to—like maybe the families of the hundreds of Pakistani children killed by our drones, for starters.

Pool photo by John Stillwell

Next: Criticizing Kate Middleton

The Duchess of Cambridge is untouchable, a fact that award-winning British novelist Hilary Mantel found out the hard way when she published a lecture reflecting on her country’s aging monarchy. Mantel’s metaphorical references to Kate’s “plastic smile” and her “dead eyes” were quickly stripped from their context and plastered onto the pages of the right-wing Daily Mail, igniting a brief national circus. Prime Minister David Cameron even felt the need to defend Kate, saying Mantel was “completely misguided.” What really hit the nerve was Mantel’s critique of the beloved British monarchy itself, something Americans have been doing with a considerable degree of success for more than 200 years. Since Britain’s democratically elected leader had to go and side with the monarchist mob, maybe it’s time for Obama to step in. Cameron’s not much of a fan anyway—don’t forget the Great DVD Fail of 2009—so why not stand up for reading carefully and speaking truth to the palace?

Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty

Next: Coming Out as Bisexual

Record producer Clive Davis is getting nothing but love from the Internet after he revealed his bisexuality in a new memoir. If Obama had a similar secret, there’d be no safer zone for explosive revelations than the second term. And who knows? If nutty right-wing bloggers are to be believed, we don’t really know what Obama did during all those college and law-school years, so maybe there’s more to the story. Now that the haters wouldn’t be able to stop him, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if Obama turned out to be bisexual. He’d be the first black president and the first gay president—a combination no future POTUS would ever be able to top.