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Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's Time to Revisit Term Limits for the President

Before the presidential campaign is concluded this November, both parties, including PACS, lobbyists and other special interest organizations, will have spent over $1 billion. $1 billion?! The founding fathers of this country could not have conceived of a presidential campaign costing a $billion. Their idea of an aggressive campaign was touring all 13 states in a stage coach, with some direct mail going out via the Pony Express. American politics have come a long way since 1776, which causes me to wonder if today’s politicians are more adept at fund raising and operating a campaign than they would be at managing the affairs of our nation. With the size of the government and the complexity of the country’s/world’s problems, who really is qualified to run America?

There are perhaps a handful of men in the country who are qualified to manage the United States; men who have been at the helm of the largest multi-national corporations in the world, who could hit the ground running on inauguration day. However, short of that type of experience, any presidential candidate will spend the first 12 to 18 months in apprenticeship, learning the job. This on-the-job training and the enormous time that it takes to run a campaign has caused me to wonder if America should reexamine the notion of a two-term President.

Most successful candidates for the White House will spend a good portion of their first term learning how to be the President of the United States. Based on the following simple calculation – a first term President spends 12 to 18 months learning his job; then the next year doing his job; and then 30 months into his administration, it’s time to begin campaigning for a second term; consequently, the final 18 months of his first term is spent on the campaign trail again. And if he is successful in re-securing the White House, he becomes a lame-duck.

When I consider what George Bush had to contend with during his campaigning for the 2004 election – a failing war in the Middle East and the threat of terrorism – it is curious to me that he could justify leaving the affairs of the nation in the hands of unelected aids while he was on the campaign trail. (And now we see that perhaps more examination of the economy during that time would have predicted the looming mortgage crisis, and some thoughtful consideration could have gone into averting it or at a minimum reducing the adverse impact.) It would seem to me that no matter how capable one might be at multi-tasking, campaigning for a second term as President of the United States (today) will draw an incumbent leader away from more important issues. Yes, I do believe that this nation faced a number of issues during the 2004 campaign that were urgent enough to warrant an announcement from George W. Bush, like Johnson during Vietnam, that he would not seek or accept his party’s nomination for the presidency.

Three years on the back side of Bush’s second term, it is clear that he has experienced the second-term-curse like his three, two-term predecessors: Richard Nixon and Watergate; Ronald Reagan with Iran-Contra; and Bill Clinton’s sex scandal with Monica Lewinski. However, Bush’s second term has pundits wondering if his presidency will go down as the worst ever. In fact, this past Sunday, the Washington Post published a commentary by George McGovern calling for the impeachment of President Bush, claiming that he and Dick Cheney are “clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses.” McGovern writes, “[they] have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of the people around the world. These are truly “high crimes and misdemeanors,” to use the Constitutional standard,” he writes.

The Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution established term limits for the presidency. Prior to that, there were no Constitutional term limits; however, Congress passed the Amendment in 1947, but it was not ratified until 1951. I believe that now Congress should revisit term limits. Without an exhaustive study, I would suggest that we limit the presidency to one-six-year term like Senators, and once the President-elect takes office, we the American public need to hold him/her to a much higher standard than previous generations did. I think if we held them to the standard of the oath of office, that would be a great start:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States (Presidential Oath of Office).” Presidents traditionally include "So help me God" at the end of the oath.)

Postscript: So, after the money is spent and the promises made, will it influence your vote on Election Day? Well it’s no secret here, they could spend the equivalent of the entire gross domestic product of the United States, and I will still vote for David R. Tolson, Sr. as a write-in candidate. Should any of you out there wish to be my running mate, please let me know, because I would be more than happy to write your name in as my vice-president.

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