Upon consideration, I don’t think what I wrote on Tuesday about Presidents getting things done in their second term is supportable. One mistake is that in my head, I’d mistakenly attributed the welfare reform and the 1996 Telecommunications Act to Bill Clinton’s second term. With those bill correctly located in his first term, then clearly Clinton signed more significant bills in his first term than in his second. With that as the context, then I agree with Scott Lemieux that the incredibly productive 1965–66 congress in Lyndon Johnson’s second term starts to look a lot like a classic instance of the “exception that proves the rule” since in so many ways that was like a first term.
The other thing, as I’ve just been reading from David Mayhew is that it’s worth trying to distinguish between legislative initiatives that come at the request of the White House and legislative initiatives that are more congressionally generated. Stuff gets done all the time, including in circumstances of divided government, but there’s a special kind of “getting stuff done” that happens when a new president sweeps into town and issues a bunch of proposals.