Option of a third term could produce second-term results

Scripps Howard News Service Published:

WASHINGTON -- I'm not so sure the nation is well served these days or perhaps ever was by limiting the terms of its chief executive. It seemed like a good idea at the time following Franklin D. Roosevelt's four elections to the presidency, but the negatives, I believe, have come to outweigh the positives.

That doesn't mean that I am in favor of extending the current president's tenure in the Oval Office or for that matter any particular future occupant. It merely says that after so many years of watching the second term become far less productive than it might, I'm convinced lame ducks should be limited to the dinner table.

The reasons are relatively simple. The mere possibility that a president has the option of running for a third term relieves his operational impotency in the second when both his opponents and his allies regard him with far less respect politically, especially during the final two years. The muscle needed to bring about results has atrophied even if the master of the White House is considered a strong caretaker. Barack Obama is a perfect example. His chances of accomplishing much more than straightening out the mess in his one domestic initiative, the Affordable Care Act if that is even possible, already are slim with such issues as tax and immigration reform and controlling runaway entitlements probably not likely.

So in his case, the deficiencies in his ability to govern have begun a year early and it would take an election miracle a year from now to give him the majorities needed in Congress, including recapturing the House and preserving, if not expanding control of the Senate, to change the outlook. Under the current circumstance that seems not only remote but slipping away with each new kerfuffle on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Just the right to run for a third term is all that is needed to keep off balance the political sharks that circle ever closer with utter disregard. Actually, as any high school civics student knows, before FDR no president had opted for the possibility of spending 12 years let alone 16 in such a demanding job. Several considered it but were dissuaded. But it was always out there for the aspiring wannabe successors to contemplate before stepping on the chief's toes.

Roosevelt's decision came as the nation faced two of its worst storms, the greatest depression in its history and a global conflagration that threatened world freedom, including ours.

''Changing horses in mid-stream" as FDR's 1940 slogan warned was a bad idea and the country was comfortable with that even though those in the know realized that the president was in terrible physical shape beyond the crippling effects of polio. His blood pressure was off the charts and his physicians had no way of treating it beyond diet and exercise and reduction of stress, none of which were probable. Add to that the fact that he was a chain smoker and a lover of martinis and the miracle was that he survived to run again in 1944.

It is no wonder that reaction to such an unprecedented tenure finally produced the term limiting Constitutional amendment. After all hadn't the founders eschewed this sort of kingly approach to governance? Yes, but they also put no limits on the length of stay realizing that might produce a less effective presidency. They believed that most presidents would not want much longer than a second term as did George Washington whose refusal to run again set the standard. Both Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant thought about it but demurred.

In recent times, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson could have served what amounted to a third term, having stepped into the job upon the death of their predecessor. Neither wanted to although LBJ might have run again in 1968 had Vietnam not eroded his popularity so thoroughly. Bill Clinton's rapport with the electorate despite his tawdry affair with an intern might have taken a shot at a third term if not precluded. Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower both had health and age issues that probably would have prevented their running for another term if not limited.

Thus, the overreaction to Roosevelt has become a good example of fixing something that wasn't broken. The voters should be the ultimate determiner of third term viability. The probability is low that many incumbents would accept, even the most charismatic.

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  • The average man thinks about sex every seven seconds. little_r_republican thinks about Obama every two seconds. ROFLĀ 

  • ""Obama Worship Syndrome." Primarily affecting low-information voters and members of the mainstream media, Obama Worship Syndrome attributes impossible capabilities to Obama's political opponents, finds excuses for every Obama failure in everyone around him and praises the president as the finest politician -- nay, human being -- of our time.

    On Monday evening, for example, CNN's Piers Morgan considered whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could run for president as an overweight man. Morgan, with stars in his eyes, asked crisis-management expert Judy Smith, "After the perfect Barack Obama -- who's a perfect physical specimen to many people's eyes -- does it matter?" After toweling himself off, Morgan then asked whether Americans could even stomach "a regular kind of guy who likes cheeseburgers and beer, but appears to be a straight talker?"

    Morgan's OWS pales in comparison to MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who infamously declared that Obama made his leg tingle. But that's just the first symptom of Matthews' OWS: He's also declared Obama "the perfect father, the perfect husband, the perfect American," explaining that Obama has "never done anything wrong in his life, legally, ethically, whatever"; he's blamed the sun for Obama's pathetic June 2013 speech in Berlin (it glared off his teleprompter, Matthews insisted); and he's compared Obama to Henry V among others.

    Morgan and Matthews are extreme cases for sure. But the most widespread symptom of OWS lately is the media's bizarre insistence that Republican opposition to Obamacare is responsible for the botched rollout. "You could argue that there are some Republicans that are trying to sabotage the law," NBC's White House correspondent Chuck Todd said back in July. The Washington Post did a full story quoting members of the Obama administration blaming Republicans for Obamacare's rolling record of epic failure. Jamelle Bouie of The Daily Beast wrote that the "Affordable Care Act needed GOP cooperation to succeed."

    This is idiotic. Obama rammed through Obamacare legislation without a single Republican vote. As he has repeatedly stated, it is "the law." It is his job to implement the law, given that he runs the executive branch. Yet his media defenders continue to maintain that Republicans, who unsuccessfully attempted to defund Obamacare, somehow bear blame for Obamacare's slow-motion collapse." B.Shapiro

  • I agree with trawl...the repubs are just democrats that don't lie as much or as well at name calling.

  • Be interesting if some people think this article is saying Barry is going to run a third time, 22nd amendment and all.

    Just imagine the humiliation of the Republican when they lost to Obama for a third time.

    Not saying I'm thrilled with Barry's performance as President, it's that the Republican thought Obama didn't stand a chance against a fence post so they ran a couple of idiots.


  • I would support elimination of any term limits as long as the perks of office were also eliminated. Eliminate all retirment except for social csecurity, cut pay to the median US wage, eliminate a taxpayer paid medical insurance coverage, return senators to being appointed by their respective state legislatures at whatever pay and perks that state determines appropriate.

    Then, just maybe, the term civil servant might apply.