Not, as the literal-minded might think, 208--as in 52 times 4--although it could be as high as 104, already reduced to about 100.
That's the number of weeks President Obama has to accomplish his second-term, home-front agenda. Should he be so successful as to restore Democratic congressional dominance by early 2015, he could get another 78-week lease on presidential power; transcendent midterm successes are, however, nearly as rare as an undefiled GOP congressman.
It is this political reality of four years as two, or merely one-point-five, that compels Obama administration officials "to have their foot on the accelerator," as one Democratic strategist told the Hill.
Yet it also explains why Obama's SOTU plea that we stop "drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next" is, while thunderingly commonsensical, pitiably impotent.
Against its better secular judgment (it shot dead its better angels long ago), the GOP has decided that manufactured crises are the material cat's meow. Simple math is at the square root of its decision. A mere one day of extravagant allegations against, say, a defense department nominee, can exponentially translate into, say, four weeks of deadlock. Presto, from 78 to 74, just like that--an entire month of mindless delay, squandered forever.
Meanwhile, immense bickering on the humane inevitability of immigration reform and lots of squabbling and parsing and partisan-loaded committee hearings on profound, unanswered Questions of Our Time--for example, Should we perhaps keep assault rifles and 100-round ammunition drums away from psychotics and criminals?--can easily chew up week after week, after week. "Seventy-eight" is not exactly a numerically high-value target, so the GOP can waste it in no time.
This spring season alone will be congressionally consumed not, however, by the really dicey question of whether it's a good idea for government to help educate impoverished pre-K Americans, but whether we should even have a government that is open at all. And next spring of course will be devoted to month-long recesses as warm-ups for a subsequent summer and fall of reelection campaigning.
"Drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next"? The phrase may be pejoratively outmoded. For when that's the dysfunctional way we operate, month after month, year after year ... well, let's face it, it's really just business as usual.