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November 05, 2004


Finished the second volume in the Ambrose biography of Eisenhower over the weekend. One of the things that struck me was the attitude of the Republican leadership in 58 and 59 towards the 22nd amendment to the Constitution, the one limiting Presidents to two terms in office.

They more or less admitted to themselves that 22 was the stupidest thing they could have done. By the time they realized it, it was too late to pass a repeal of the amendment in time to allow Eisenhower to stand for re-election in the 1960 election.

Ike would have won, too. Easily. Privately, the Republicans kicked themselves in the rear for years afterwards over what might have been.

22 has hurt the Democrats as well, as was its original intention, of course. Does anyone doubt that Bill Clinton would have served at least three terms in office? In all likelihood he'd be looking forward to a fourth term now, heart attack or no.

22 needs to be repealed, but it won't happen unless there's a bipartisan effort to do so. Given the current state of the electorate, that means that the party that needs to bring up repeal of 22 is not the Republicans, but the Democrats. Any attempt by the party of W to jumpstart a repeal would engender a strong backlash against repeal on the part of the Left, and would likely fail, or require so much amount of political capital that the attempt would simply not be made.

The Democrats would face no such protests from the Left--though they would inevitably be accused of selling out by the unstrategically-minded fringe. The reflexive reaction on much of the Right would undoubtedly be along the lines of "Please don't throw me in dat dere briar patch," and it's that reaction that would allow the repeal attempt to be bipartisan in nature.

Then in 2008, W can stand for his third term--and so can Bill.

Won't that be fun?

Posted by Bigwig at November 5, 2004 10:48 AM | TrackBack
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Someone on the web wrote a fantasy history of W's reign that included just those elements. Read it yesterday.

Posted by: Scorpio at November 5, 2004 01:42 PM

I'm actually looking foreward to a Hillary / Condi slugfest.

Posted by: Sully at November 5, 2004 03:31 PM

I could go along with this, but repealing the 17th would have to be part of the package. The Senate now is merely the at-large wing of the House and isn't focused on being the State's Rights advocates that they ought to be.

Posted by: JSAllison at November 5, 2004 04:42 PM

Here's how it could be swung: the GOP agrees to drop the "no third term" amendment if it have can one of its own dropping the American-born requirement to run for president.

They could call it the Clinton-Schwarzenegger Act.

Now, how's THAT for a match-up in '2008?

Posted by: Bill Peschel at November 5, 2004 04:50 PM

I'd much rather have an amendment limiting presidents to ONE, single, six-year term, so that they couldn't spend most of their time in office campaigning for reelection, subordinating policy to politics, twisting governance into a sales tool. (As conservative friends of mine say, this would also deal a blow to the parasitic "political class" and take us back in the direction of citizen government.)

However, it'll never happen, and why? For one reason, because Americans love competition too much. As Bush said in his press conference, it's great sport, right up there with the Super Bowl and the World Series, but with even higher stakes.

Posted by: amba at November 5, 2004 08:59 PM

Repealing 22 would be massively stupid. The only reason to allow FDR to serve four terms was WWII. It should go the other directions. No more than four terms for US Reps, 2 terms for Senators, and 10 years and out for the Supreme Court. You think this country would be served well by flip-flopping Bush and Clinton every 4-8 years? New blood. It ought to be mandatory for all three branches of the Federal government. Or do like some states. Two terms, then you have to sit out for four years. But endless terms? No, that's asking for a lot more trouble than we have now.

Posted by: Jim Winter at November 6, 2004 08:52 PM
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