Essays on American politics and foreign policy

By Donald E. Nuechterlein

Donald Nuechterlein is a political scientist and writer who resides near Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of numerous books on American politics and foreign policy, including

  • Defiant Superpower: The New American Hegemony, 2005
  • America Recommitted: A Superpower Assesses its Role in a Turbulent World, 2000
  • A Cold War Odyssey, 1997


Donald Nuechterlein


(Delivered at Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge, January 18, 2006)


Every second term president since 1945 has had a foreign policy crisis

Significantly, each president, except Reagan, saw the opposition party win the White House in the next general election.

Composition of Congress was a factor in the fate of some presidents

Two observations about second term presidents who engage in wars

First, presidents who launch limited wars have up to three years to end them, otherwise the public concludes the costs outweigh the benefits.

Second, most presidents need at least the Senate, or House, controlled by their political party, in order to launch a limited war.

Finally, what is the prognosis for George Bush's second term?

  1. Unlike his predecessors, Bush's Iraq crisis began in the first term. His reelection in 2004 provided a chance to recoup a failed Iraq strategy.
    We are coming up on three years since his launch of the Iraq War.
  2. Bush's success depends on whether Republicans retain control of the Senate and House after the November elections. His plan to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq is motivated, in part, by this political consideration.
  3. Public disaffection with the costs of Iraq poses a large question mark. But the strong U.S. economy--low inflation and unemployment--helps him
  4. Public concern about domestic surveillance and lobbying corruption is growing and could affect the outcome of Republican congressional seats
  5. 2007-08 shapes up as a crucial challenge for George Bush's political skills: whether he can replicate Ronald Reagan's achievement by electing a nominee of his party to succeed him in the White House.

Are second-term presidents inhibited in dealing with foreign crises by their so-called "lame duck" status?

James MacGregor Burns, the noted presidential historian, penned an article recently (New York Times January 8) titled: "No More Second-Term Blues." He proposes repealing the 22nd Amendment that limits a president to two- terms, in order to avoid the "lame duck" effect on the second term. Is this a prudent way to enhance a president's ability to conduct effective foreign policy in the second term?

File last modified on Sunday, 22-JAN-2006 08:03 PM EST

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