One six-year term for presidents

Published 9:40 am Saturday, April 16, 2011

Here we go again. Like a discount furniture store touting this weekend’s event as the sale to end all sales, we stand on the precipice of yet another election season in which presidential candidates will attempt to scare us into believing that this is the election in which we will determine the future viability of the United States, if not all of mankind and planet earth itself.

Predictably, the president has announced his intention to run for reelection, and the usual Republican suspects have begun getting their ducks lined up in a neat, little row. The 2012 presidential campaign is now under way.

And it’s got me thinking — didn’t we just do this? It seems to me, and I suppose it also does many of you, that we spend more time debating who the next guy should be than holding to account the one that’s there.

We’ve actually gotten to the point where our president spends more time campaigning for his job than actually doing the job.

Nearly two years spent campaigning for the right to become president, if successful, leads to a mere two years on the job before the last two years of the first term are spent, while on the job, with the president trying to convince us that he is the man to continue on for four more, the ink having hardly dried on the oath of office. No point in switching horses midstream goes the conventional wisdom.

A successful presidential re-election bid then leads to a second go-round in office, best described as an ineffective exercise composed of equal parts legacy building and an all-out effort to ensure the incumbent vice president is promoted to keep the current party in the oval office.

No wonder presidents age physically at a rate twice the speed of light.

The whole process is a mess. And it leads to the real heart of the problem we have concerning the lack of effective leadership in Washington. We are in a constant state of campaign, and this affliction is causing ineffectiveness and gridlock in every aspect of government.

We can’t appoint judges. We can’t draft decent, meaningful legislation. Really, we can’t get decent candidates to consider running for office because we are in a constant state of campaign. What sane person is interested?

The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed by Congress in 1947 and ratified by the states in 1951, clearly instructs that no one shall be elected to serve more than two terms as president, and if currently serving more than two years of a prior president’s term, may only seek re-election once.

It was a good start, but now we need to finish the job. Let’s limit the president to a single six-year term. And while we’re at it, limit senators to two six-year terms and representatives to six two-year terms.

I am unaware of anyone who argues the merits of term limits, except perhaps those who would draw up the legislation required to enact them. Notwithstanding the unlikelihood that term limit reform will ever see the light of day, there are two main reasons voters should insist on them.

First, they would reduce the amount of time professional politicians spend in office, making room for a wider pool of candidates from which to choose. And second, it would reduce the amount of time elected officials spend campaigning on company time.

So for the next two years, every time you see the president on television campaigning to keep a job he just got and you begin to wonder who’s minding the store, remember that a six–year term limit would relieve us all of the perpetual presidential election cycle and create an environment that’s more about getting things done than promising what’s going to get done.