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Ruth Marcus / Politics

Looking for a Second-Term Fit

WASHINGTON -- Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner arrived in the Oval Office bearing socks. President Obama had admired Wenner's flashy pair on a previous visit, and this gift fit the bill: one pair salmon with pink squares, the other black and pink stripes.

"These are nice," the president said. Then he paused. "These may be second-term socks."

A joke, but as Freud would say ...

Is there a flamboyant Obama yearning to be liberated? Does he have wild second-term hosiery stuffed in the back of the presidential sock drawer, waiting for the proper moment to be safely unveiled?

I hope so.

Republican nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney portrays the president as self-activated Manchurian Candidate, biding time before springing his diabolical plans on the American people.

Romney seized on the president's open-microphone moment with Dmitry Medvedev, in which Obama was overheard telling the Russian president, "After my election, I have more flexibility."

Obama, Romney warned the American Society of News Editors, "does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press." Obama unbound, Romney told the National Rifle Association, "would be unrestrained by the demands of re-election."

The word delusional comes to mind. If anything, a second Obama term promises to be conservative, in the technical sense -- conserving the achievements of the first term, health care most of all, and protecting them from Republican dismantling.

Indeed, to listen to Obama, the argument for re-election is as much about avoiding that U-turn as about charting the path ahead. "The last thing we can afford to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us into this mess in the first place," he said at a campaign fundraiser in Michigan the other day. "They want to roll back Wall Street reforms, so suddenly Wall Street is playing by its own rules again. They want to roll back health insurance reform, go back to the days when insurance companies could jack up your rates or deny you coverage without any reason."

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Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group



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