If history is our guide, in one month, when Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, a honeymoon period will begin.

Political opponents are loath to criticize a new President before they know well the later consequences of that criticism.  Within a given period of time they will learn if it is safe to lob grenades in the President’s direction and if so how often and how heavy. Until critics are comfortable they will sit on the fence and watch as others are the first to stick their necks out.  The press will report mostly the positive view of things until they have reason to turn against the new leader (the fact that good news doesn’t sell is usually reason enough).

That would have been the story in the past.  A couple of months minimum and more likely 6 months would have passed before the boo-birds came out.  Today, I think we have a very different situation.  The honeymoon will be brief at best and likely will be almost nonexistent.  Why do I feel this way?  

First, is the matter of time.  The recent Presidential Election Campaign lasted a full two years.  For over 6 months, the smart money has been on an Obama Presidency.  That is plenty of time to see who is in what camp, who is vulnerable, who must compromise and who has the strength to do what he or she wants to do.  

Second, is the matter of information.  With the maturation of the web and blogging, and the near 100% penetration of homes by television, enough information has been available to allow most people to have decided where they stand.  I would argue that there are very few (influencial)  people standing on the sidelines saying they will watch and not comment on the new President’s actions until they know more about him.

Third, is the lack of a transition.  The financial crisis has made it imperative that the President-Elect weigh in on the issue and propose solutions.  In the past, most Presidents-elect have had the luxury of spending the time between the election and inauguration building their teams.  

President-Elect Obama has, in effect, been using up his honeymoon during the “transition.”

My prediction is that the Congress will almost immediately become a group that is less supportive and, in fact, a group that will go a long way to take power away from the new President.  The prospect of a unified Congress and President accomplishing great things is, in my view, a very unlikely scenario.  Democrats should lower there expectation of change in Washington.  Republicans can breath easier in the knowledge that Mr. Obama will not get Congress to go along with all he promised to his constituents.

Just to become the candidate for the Democrats, Mr. Obama had to show amazing skill at manipulating his primary foes against one another.  He will have to do an even more effective job of manipulating the myriad factions in Congress to retain half the power that he had on the day after his election.  

Mr. Obama’s Honeymoon – How long will it last?  About long enough to clean up after the Inaugural Balls in Washington.

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