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July 06, 2009

Debate Question of the Day

Over the weekend when we were studiously either sleeping or not being online, reader GS invited the Editorial Staff to comment upon this intriguing bit o' blog fodder:

H. J. Res. 5 Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.

Sponsor: Rep. José Serrano [D-NY16]

Given our present state of unicorn-induced bliss, it is tempting to see such a distressing proposition as the death knell of the Republic. A few moments of Googling, however, inclines us to a more sanguine view. First of all, Congress can propose all the resolutions it likes but when push comes to shove, the only way the 22nd Amendment would be repealed would be if an overwhelming majority of state legislatures voted to get rid of it. And that's assuming the resolution ever made it out of Congress:

Joint resolutions are also used to propose amendments to the Constitution. Used this way, they must be passed by both the House and Senate and be ratified by three-quarters of the states, but do not require the signature of the President, to become a part of the Constitution.

That's a pretty high bar, and one we don't think likely to be surmounted. The second reason for complacency is that folks in both parties have repeatedly proposed just such resolutions and they've gone exactly nowhere:

Other members of Congress who have offered similar proposals in the last twenty years include the following:
Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts (Democrat): 1995, 1997, and 1999 (all during the presidency of Bill Clinton).

Rep. David Dreier of California (Republican): 1997 (during the presidency of Bill Clinton).

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York (Democrat): 1995 (during the presidency of Bill Clinton).

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (Republican): 1995 (during the presidency of Bill Clinton).

Rep. Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan (Republican): 1991 (during the presidency of George H.W. Bush).

Rep. Martin Sabo of Minnesota (Democratic-Farmer-Labor): 1991 (during the presidency of George H.W. Bush).
According to our survey, not a single one of these proposals was ever so much as brought to a vote before Congress (they were all referred to committee and languished there), much less passed and sent to the states for ratification.

Interestingly, no less a conservative icon than Ronald Wilson Reagan favored repealing the Presidential term limit. In this 1988 article, William F. Buckley argues the opposing position.

The question is, what do you all think? Good idea or opening Pandora's box? As food for thought, you may care to review a post from early this Spring on the historical record regarding power sharing in the Oval Office. The pre- and post- 22nd Amendment patterns are interesting:

Prior to 1950, extended one-party rule was more the norm than the exception.

Since 1950, extended one-party rule has been the exception rather than the norm. In fact, it has happened only once.

And so we ask you: is this a good thing? Debate amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at July 6, 2009 07:50 AM

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Comments

Please, no more than eight years of one president. We need a constant infusion of new ideas.

Perhaps more important, there should be term limits in the House and Senate. Many of our representatives and senators have made a career out of politics. I doubt that "getting something done" goes past one or two terms. Then greed and the good life takes over.

Posted by: Peter Conover at July 6, 2009 09:01 AM

My father's wisdom on this continues to inspire me. He said that politicians should be allowed to serve as many terms as they could win, so long as immediately after they finish, they serve an equal number of years in prison.

Posted by: Grim at July 6, 2009 09:07 AM

*snort*

Posted by: Cassandra at July 6, 2009 09:09 AM

I'd like to keep the 22nd amendment. I understand the argument against term limits - it's the voters saying, "Stop me before I vote again" - but history has given us ample reason to be leery of a charismatic executive. Charismatic legislators seem to be less of a problem.

I was reassured to read in the Snopes link that Rep. Serrano has introduced this same idea every two years for quite a while. At least for him this is not part of a dastardly plot to make Obama President for Life.

Less reassuring in this context are the campaign to repeal the 22nd specifically to enable Obama to have a third term (I keep thinking this must be a joke site but they seem to be serious) and The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (which I hate with a passion). The combination of repealing the 22nd and electing the President by popular vote makes the danger of a charismatic executive far more real.

Plus, let's face it. If Obama wants a third term, Michelle can run as his proxy. I'm just glad his daughters are too young to have hit 35 by the time the Obamas 16 combined years would be over.

Posted by: Elise at July 6, 2009 10:44 AM

Not gonna spend any cycles fretting over this one. It'll never get past the states. Too close to the tar, feathers, rails, pitchforks, and torches. Not to mention Tea Party practitioners and NRA-ILA card carrying Neanderthals.

Off vector but somewhat in line with Grim's pappy's insight... I'll begin by stating that I've always attempted to avoid taking satisfaction from the misfortune of others. But today, Satan receives R.S. McNamara, so I'll an make exception and spend the rest of my day glowing in the satisfaction of Satan's misfortune.

Think of it, that poor devil, Satan that is, will now spend the rest of eternity with a whiz of an efficiency expert -check his record if you don't believe me- whispering suggestions in Satan's ear.

Hell has lost the war!

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 6, 2009 10:48 AM

"I understand the argument against term limits - it's the voters saying, "Stop me before I vote again"
I can't speak for the voters but when I advocate term limits, it's to stop the other voters before they vote again.

And while "Charismatic legislators seem to be less of a problem", anytime one party holds the majority in the Congress and the White House, charisma is the least of our worries.

Yes, I'd rather have an electorate that is informed and engaged, but I think that's about as likely as an unbiased major media.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 6, 2009 12:59 PM

Repealing the 22A has a snowball's chance of passing. So we are debating in a vacuum.

But since we're doing it... :-)

I don't agree that party control of the POTUS is a good proxy for evaluating whether or not 3rd terms are likely.

Most people do not vote for party. They vote for people.

Many Democrats who may have voted for Clinton for a 3rd term were unwilling to vote for Al Gore. Many Republicans who may have voted for W for a 3rd term were unwilling to vote for McCain.

Furthermore, since we are debating in a vacuum, I contend that such effects are irrelevent anyway. "You can have the power so long as you never use" it doesn't seem like a very tenable position. If you don't want a 10 term president it doesn't matter how unlikely the event is.

it's to stop the other voters before they vote again.
Yep, that whole letting people govern themselves is a problem isn't it. :-)

And that right there boils down to the argument against term-limits in general. Shouldn't people be able to choose for themselves who leads them? Who are you to tell them who they can and cannot vote for?

And this somewhat speaks to the arguments I have been making on a different post. There's a saying (I believe it has military origins) that posits "Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics".

The above sounds like a nice strategy. The problem is logistics. A charismatic leader is the single biggest threat to a Democratic Republican form of gov't. He is the "Key Log" which jams the flow of liberty. By removing the person (but not neccesarily the ideals) in the position of POTUS, you ensure that any blockage is at worst temporary.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano who is the Devil's Advocate at July 6, 2009 02:09 PM

- it's the voters saying, "Stop me before I vote again"

Which is a sentiment unknown to North Jersey Democrats on Election Day.

They're like that li'l pink rabbit, even *after* they're dead...

Posted by: BillT at July 6, 2009 02:25 PM

"t's to stop the other voters before they vote again. Yep, that whole letting people govern themselves is a problem isn't it. :-)"
Then why limit the terms of POTUS? Say folks who would want to be governed by the same person for 10 terms.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 6, 2009 02:28 PM

Whoops!!! Neural net to digits misfire.

My last was not clearly stated but I suspect my question managed to stumble through in spite of said bollixed statement. IOW, if restricting the number of terms of the POTUS is good, how can restricting the number of terms of a Congress-widget/Senator be less than good?

Being a drudge, consistency hobgobblin, stick-in-the-mud sorta guy, who's open to persuasion, I'm curious?

And yeah, arguing in a vacuum is a waste, but it's raining and Walkin' Boss put me on temporary parole. At least until the rain stops.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 6, 2009 02:47 PM

Throw the bums out. It's not real work, and they can muck it up much to easily.

I give you the Texas and New York legislatures as examples.

One meets for five months every other year. The other meets continually, even on weekends, and brings bodyguards in the Senate.

But if I can only have term limits on one form of politician - put me in Ya-ain's corner. Periodically shoot the Executives.

Legislators oft times make themselves irrelevant.

I just wish they'd quit spending so much money while they're doing it.

Oh, wait - that was Spitzer.

Posted by: NRA-ILA card carrying Neanderthal at July 6, 2009 03:39 PM

IOW, if restricting the number of terms of the POTUS is good, how can restricting the number of terms of a Congress-widget/Senator be less than good?

Don't get me wrong, I kinda like the idea of term limits for congress critters. But the argument that such is less of an issue than term limits on the POTUS is that a Senator is only 1/100th of the Senate and a Rep is only 1/435th of the House and not the whole all by themselves. As such, the amount of damage any single one of them can do is much less.

The country is in much less danger from Robert Byrd being in the Senate for 233 years than from him being President for 12.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano who is the Devil's Advocate at July 6, 2009 04:13 PM

"But if I can only have term limits on one form of politician - put me in Ya-ain's corner. Periodically shoot the Executives."
I would never argue that allowing one person to serve in the office of the U.S. Presidency for more than two terms is a good thing. But if it's good for the nation to limit the number of terms in office for the POTUS, I can not argue that it is not good for the nation to limit the number of terms in office for Congress-widgets.
"Legislators oft times make themselves irrelevant."
When we're lucky. But I'd be willing to bet that a quick pass through the Presidential Libraries of the past, oh, 13 presidents, as a means to review legislation passed on their watch, would leave me with a very large Maker's Mark tab. And probably make me a shoe-in as the geriatric poster-curmudgeon for the latest pharmaceutical blissfully-happy-and-comfortably-numb miracle drug.
"But the argument that such is less of an issue than term limits on the POTUS is that a Senator is only 1/100th of the Senate and a Rep is only 1/435th of the House and not the whole all by themselves. As such, the amount of damage any single one of them can do is much less."
And you'll get no disagreement from me on that. But when the filibuster-proof, like-minded majority, of senior, career politico's and the president are, for the most part, unopposed by the loyal opposition -another point that's driving me to drink =8^/ - term limits seems to me to be a good check on the power of a government to do great damage in a two year span.

I might even say the same if the GOP were in the drivers seat. That is if the GOP ever exercised power with the same gusto and abandon as our Democrat citizen/statesmen und women.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 6, 2009 04:40 PM

Gotta disagree with you on this one. The only term limits we ought to have are those imposed by the voters kicking the rascals out at the ballot box on election day -- or driving them from the halls of power with torches and pitchforks.

The 22nd Amendment was simply one of the most disgusting acts of spite in American political history, and was a less gory attempt to treat FDR the way Pope Formosus was treated at the Cadaver Synod during the Middle Ages.

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at July 6, 2009 06:12 PM

Not to go all federal rights of citizenship on ya, but if a majority of the electorate were to decide that career politicians are not in the nations best interest, lowerd knows why anyone might come to that conclusion, and work towards passage of a Constitutional amendment such that Congress widgets max out at 4 terms and Senators at two, I would ask any and all who oppose terms limits to explain to me how, exactly, would that violate the spirit of our Republican form of self-governance?

Still curious.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 6, 2009 07:01 PM

bt, term limits won't necessarily change party make-up in congress. There the individual person makes much less difference unless you're the speaker or something like that. So the difference between Representative Blackburn (R) and Unnamed Republican representative is very small. The less powerful the position the more people rely on party affiliation to substitute for direct knowledge of the person themselves.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano who is the Devil's Advocate at July 6, 2009 07:06 PM

I would ask any and all who oppose terms limits to explain to me how, exactly, would that violate the spirit of our Republican form of self-governance? (emphasis mine)

It wouldn't. But it would hack off the libertarians who think they are the same thing.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano who is the Devil's Advocate at July 6, 2009 07:09 PM

"bt, term limits won't necessarily change party make-up in congress."
True, but we'd not have to suffer the same slick weasels cajoling, via the weight of their seniority and positions, junior members who still have silly, idealistic notions of serving the good of the nation in spite of the senior members dubious agendas. IOW, being representatives of their constituents, or reasonable facsimiles thereof.

Or words to that effect. =8^}

BTW, I too am all for letting the voters toss da bums out. The flaw in that line of thought is the assumption of an informed and engaged electorate who are not attempting to vote the largess of the treasury their way. And in case anyone has not been paying attention lately, it's too late for that. The Treasury is fresh out of largess, only IOU's remain. And the Chinese hold too many of those IMHO.

I think I'm gonna hush now so M'lady Cass does not send me a bandwidth usage bill.

Astla Winnebago.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at July 6, 2009 07:30 PM

Actually, bt, if given the opportunity, I'd vote for term limits for Congressmen (and Congresswomen, of course). Somewhere - I think at IMAO - I read the argument that back when the Federal government was less powerful, it didn't really matter if the dingbats in Outer Nowhere kept re-electing a poor excuse for a human being as their Representative: the damage he could do to people who didn't live in Outer Nowhere was pretty mild. Now, however, the Federal government is terrifyingly powerful and if the good people of Barney Frank's district keep re-electing him, I could end up searching through garbage cans for my next meal. So, sure, I'd go for term limits on Congress.

And just for the record, I absolutely don't think term limits for any elected official in any way, shape, or form violate our Republic form of self-governance.

Posted by: Elise at July 6, 2009 10:03 PM

...if the good people of Barney Frank's district keep re-electing him...

I once asked a friend (who has since become a *former* Taxachusetts resident) why the electorate kept returning Teddy the K and Barney Frank to Washington.

He replied: "It's the only way we can keep Kennedy off our roads and the only way we can keep Frank away from our kids."

Posted by: BillT at July 7, 2009 09:03 AM

bt, just to clarify, I'm with you. I would fully support term limits on our congresscritters. I wouldn't reject a 8 year limit, but I'm perfectly happy with say 20 years* as the limit. It's long enough so that most wouldn't bump up against it anyway, but short enough that you don't become really dangerous.

*Combined Senate and House: Wouldn't want people swapping chambers just to stay in for 40 years.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano who fired the Devil as a client at July 7, 2009 09:24 AM

I'd be perfectly happy with some of our current Congresscritters serving 20 years, but nobody has pressed charges yet...

Posted by: BillT at July 7, 2009 10:16 AM

YAG, Elise, I enjoyed the banter. When I can manage to keep my yap shut, I usually learn a good deal from M'lady and all you villains here abouts.

But I'll confess that I do feel some guilt over our exchange. By agreeing with me, you may now find a black Crown Vic perpetually parked in front of your domiciles. One that you can call your very own.
*Wonders if Government Motors will resume production of the full sized Impala, with a cop motor, cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks?*

I probably ought to apply with the FBI for a second career and save the taxpayers some money on surveillance. Keep an eye on myself as it were.

Posted by: bt_elwood_hun at July 7, 2009 11:40 AM

"I'd be perfectly happy with some of our current Congresscritters serving 20 years, but nobody has pressed charges yet..."
Don't look at me! I tried.

I must have been crazy...

Posted by: Inspector General Walpin at July 7, 2009 11:54 AM

By agreeing with me, you may now find a black Crown Vic perpetually parked in front of your domiciles.

I'll just of the occupants as bodyguards there to protect me from the very odd people who recently moved in across the street.

Posted by: Elise at July 7, 2009 12:04 PM

Team Remulak, this is Shadow 6, keep the shades drawn -- the 350 Lawn Chicas in your Second Punic War diorama appear to have spooked Surveillance Subject Echo.

Break, break, Crown Vic 32, did you let Bravo get into the garden again? One more slip-up like that, and it's back to Dreamland to round up those gold-dust-farting unicorns Teh Boss promised everybody, understood?

Six, Out.

Posted by: BillT at July 7, 2009 01:36 PM

I think that you might have some middle ground for such stuff.

As far as term limits for the PotUS, all the presidents prior to FDR accepted 2 terms as a limit. Anything more is too close to an imperial presidency. Best to avoid that completely.

As far as term limits for Congressbozos of both varieties, perhaps it should be allowed with a steadily increasing "retain" requirement. Say the year before the term runs out, the politico is allowed to indicate a desire to stay in office. In order to be allowed to remain, they have to get not 50% of the vote, but 60. When that term is up, they have to get 65%, and the next time after that, 70%, and so on. If they fail to get that number, their term ends the next year and there will be two fresh candidates on the block.

If everyone REALLY thinks the person is doing a good job, great. That person can keep the office. If not, "Out on their bums".

Posted by: Obloodyhell at July 8, 2009 09:54 AM

If I'm Surveillance Subject Echo, then:

350? Really? Boy I was confused when I thought there were 35 living in that house.

Do you think you could use some of your fancy-dancy electronic stuff to block the cell phone of the woman who likes to stand out on her lawn and scream to her son-in-law about what the judge wants from her witness today?

Whoever Bravo is in the garden, could you get him to transplant those impatiens in the front? Before the unicorns trample them?

Thanks. And if you guys want a donut or something, just let me know.

Posted by: Elise at July 8, 2009 08:23 PM

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