We have a new president! I mean, not in the sense of the president being someone other than Barack Obama. But in the sense of the president being a second-term Obama rather than a first-term Obama. That makes a big difference. There's a tendency to emphasize the negative part of the difference -- as in "lame duck." But there's a kind of liberation that comes from being a lame duck, and that can bring a lot of good.
The good flows from two things: Worrying more about legacy -- about how posterity will judge you -- and worrying less (in fact, not at all) about getting reelected. Right now, shortly after Obama's triumph, I may be feeling too optimistic about how much good can come from these things. But I'm sure some good can come from them. In any event, here are some issues that I hope will benefit from a liberated Barack Obama:
Drone strikes: Obama's extensive use of drone strikes seems to be grounded in an acute fear that, if he doesn't constantly squash al Qaeda-esque militants, America will be hit by a terrorist attack. (He was reportedly freaked out by the close call on Christmas of 2009.) An understandable concern -- not just because no responsible leader wants citizens killed by terrorists, but because no rational politician wants to be held responsible for such attacks when facing reelection. Well, he's not facing reelection any more. I'd like to think that this will give him enough breathing space to pause and rethink the long term costs of these drone strikes -- to consider, for example, the possibility that they're creating more terrorists than they're killing, something posterity will not judge kindly.