Professor says it’s a race against time for second-term presidents with big agendas

When President Obama takes the
oath of office
for the second time on Monday, he will officially begin what Chapman University
political science
Professor Lori Cox Han says is one of the toughest roads for an American president – the second term.

woman smiling

Professor Lori Cox Han

“They have to realize that they are operating in a politic environment where everyone else is still beholden to the voters,” says Cox Han, an expert on the American presidency and the author of the just-released book
Presidents and the American Presidency
, co-authored by Diane J. Heith of
St. John’s University
and published by Oxford University Press.

“The president might be willing to do big things, but members of Congress, particularly members of his own party, aren’t all that excited because they still have to come up for re-election. That’s one of the consequences of the second term,” Cox Han says.

In her new textbook – which was held for publication until the Electoral College results from the 2012 election were verified – Cox Han documents that political reality by focusing on the archival documents that reveal the inner workings of the Oval Office and the day-to-day responsibilities and challenges that presidents faced.

Cox Han is also the author of
A Presidency Upstaged: The Public Leadership of George H.W. Bush
(Texas A&M University Press, 2011);
Women and U.S. Politics: The Spectrum of Leadership
, 2nd ed. (Lynne Rienner, 2010); and
Governing From Center Stage: White House Communication Strategies During the Television Age of Politics
(Hampton Press, 2001). In addition, she is past president of the Presidency Research Group, an organized section of the American Political Science Association devoted to the study of the presidency.

Though it can be fleeting, there is a window of political opportunity in a second term. Cox Han believes that explains President Obama’s
gun control plan
introduced Wednesday.

“Whether he’ll be successful or not, who knows,” she says. “Some people are concerned that since he went big on gun control, that won’t give him the opportunity to go big on debt reduction or immigration reform, which are big issues that are also looming out there.”

Dawn Bonker

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