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One Presidential Term And Done

February 27, 2012

Abolish second Presidential terms.  Instead, establish a single six-year term for the chief executive and let him (or her) work unencumbered by the prospect of the impending need for re-election.

As we prepare for another Presidential election, I have to wonder why we must submit ourselves and our country to the exercise every four years.  Apparently it has been debated before, by no less than our Founding Fathers as they drew up the Constitution in 1787.  Thomas Jefferson advocated a single seven-year term for the Presidency, but in the end felt that elected service for eight years, submitted for re-election after four, was the optimum solution. 

And remember the two-term limitation wasn’t in the original Constitution, it was a kind of gentleman’s agreement that a person would only run twice, following the original example of George Washington.  Not until the sore loser Republicans pushed through the 22nd Amendment (after being defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt an unprecedented four times and then by Truman, giving the Democrats an unprecedented run in the White House) were two terms the legal limit.

But in today’s modern election cycle, the newly elected President really only has about a year in office before he must think about re-election, and the implications weigh heavily on every decision, every appointment, every bill signed.  The amount of money that must be raised, even by a sitting President with the full power and regalia of the office, is staggering.  An inordinate amount of time is spent, not governing, but getting ready to govern again.

In the modern day, we’ve seen that impeachment is still possible, so why not a six-year term?  There’s still a power to remove, though not directly from the people.  Second terms haven’t given us the benefits of experienced Presidents since the Roosevelt and Eisenhower administrations.  Johnson declined to run again (he most certainly would have lost), Nixon gave us Watergate (the entire break-in and cover-up were caused by the need for re-election), Reagan’s Iran contra mess, Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal and the George W. Bush economic recession all occurred in term number two.

I think the only way that tough decisions on Social Security, the unbalanced budget and healthcare reform can be made are by a chief executive concerned with what’s good for the country, not what is going to generate votes in swing states.


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  1. Completely agreed. I would much rather have my president being a president than kissing babies and shaking hands. Call me crazy. Especially with the elections becoming more and more like a constantly running circus, one populated with nothing but elephants, donkeys, and clowns.

  2. I disagree. Particularly in the foreign policy area, presidents’ best accomplishments usually are in the second term, because they are less concerned with politics and more concerned with their legacy. Reagan’s top foreign policy accomplishments, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” and nuclear disarmament were both in the second term. A 2nd term landslide (FDR, Eisenhower, Reagan) also gives the president a boost in getting things done.

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