HAMPTON, N.H. — The public is fed up with Congress. It’s not enamored of the president. This month’s fiscal follies soon will be followed by several sad reprises. The political class is in disrepute.
We know that Barack Obama will soon disappear from the political scene, but many of the principals in the spending and debt crisis will be back — and will be here, in New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary, in 2016. Obama’s eclipse and their ambitions should be prompting deep introspection about what America wants and what it needs for its next president.
The next election is 36 months away, but already the contours of the next campaign are evident. It is not uplifting or illuminating. Here’s the dreary libretto of what awaits us:
Is Hillary Clinton going to run? If so, does she clear the Democratic field of everybody except that reliable golden retriever, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.? Is Biden too old and too much of a re-tread?
Which of the Republican rebels — Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas — will run? Will a mainstream Republican get into the race? What are Chris Christie’s intentions after next week’s election in New Jersey? Can a GOP insurgent emerge with enough support to win the nomination? To win the race and avoid an electoral disaster like 1964 (Barry Goldwater on the right) or 1972 (George S. McGovern on the left)?
The fact is that all of these questions are the wrong ones — and, yes, I have sinned, having written about most if not all of them. They are a distraction from the main question, which is this:
What does the United States need in 2016 after two terms of George W. Bush and two terms of Barack Obama, 16 years that, as Churchill, borrowing from the Book of Joel, might have said, the locusts ate? (These two administrations are perhaps the only American two-term presidencies that accord with Benjamin Disraeli’s characterization of the government of Lord John Russell: “It was a weak government, and therefore durable.”)