In his second term, Richard Nixon had Watergate, but also the rescue of Israel in the Yom Kippur War.
In his second term, Ronald Reagan had Iran-Contra, but also a treaty eliminating U.S. and Soviet missiles in Europe, his “tear-down-this-wall” moment in Berlin and his lead role in ending the Cold War.
In his second term, Bill Clinton had Monica, but also came close to a peace treaty between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat.
Obama’s second-term scandals — IRS, Benghazi, wiretapping The Associated Press and Fox — are in the low-kiloton range compared to the resignation of Nixon or the impeachment of Clinton.
And as Obama is going to get nada from a Republican House on guns, amnesty, cap-and-trade or a second stimulus, he should look for his legacy — as Nixon, Reagan and Clinton did — to foreign policy.
Two opportunities beckon. First, the mirage — a Middle East peace. Essential to any treaty, however, is a withdrawal of Israeli “settlers” from the West Bank, a sharing of Jerusalem, Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a “Jewish state” and Arab repudiation of the “right of return.”
Good luck. Bibi Netanyahu, who calls Jerusalem our “eternal capital” and Judea and Samaria our ancient lands, is not going to divide Jerusalem or uproot Jewish settlers from the West Bank.
Hence Obama’s legacy hopes lie not in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington, but in what is happening in Iran — the inauguration of the president who replaces Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Hassan Rowhani was elected with 51 percent of the vote by the constituency that voted against Ahmadinejad in 2009. He was elected on a pledge to revive the economy, get sanctions lifted and re-engage with the West. Yet the only way he can achieve these goals is to come to terms with Obama on Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran wants its rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty — to peaceful nuclear research and nuclear power — recognized by the United States. And it wants U.S.-UN sanctions lifted. The United States needs intrusive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities to assure us that she is not building an atom bomb.
Yet this seems not beyond the realm of possibility.
Despite the hysteria about Iran’s “mad dash” to an atom bomb, Tehran has never tested a bomb and never produced the 90-percent-enriched uranium needed for a bomb, and does not have sufficient 20-percent uranium to further enrich for a bomb test.
Moreover, Ayatollah Khamenei has declared nuclear weapons anti-Islamic.
Rowhani’s political future, the continued allegiance of his Iranian followers who want to re-engage with the West and the world, hangs on whether he can get a deal on Iran’s nuclear program and a lifting of sanctions. What Rowhani cannot do is surrender Iran’s rights to nuclear power and research. On this his nation is united. But he may be able to give the West what it requires, intrusive inspections, to prove that what Iran claims to be true is true — that it has no nuclear weapons program.
If we can get that, we should be able to get a deal, and America can lift her sanctions, their objective having been achieved.
That would be the crown jewel of Obama’s second term.
History beckons. Obama should seize the moment.
Pat Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”