November 20, 2004

Stop the Madness

Many years ago, during an afternoon binge of lucid moments, I weighed the pros and cons of an amendment to the Constitution that would limit the Presidency of the United States to a SINGLE SIX-YEAR TERM.

Lo these many years later I can't think of any reason this could be a bad thing.

Think about this. Wouldn't it be great if a new President would not reduce the role of his office to being headquarters for a 4-year re-election campaign? And wouldn't it be cool if the opposing party in the House and Senate would not spend most of a president's term actively undermining any and all presidential initiatives in the preparation for the next election campaign? I've always found it fascinating that, save for maybe parts of year 1 in a president's first term, everything else is political showmanship having nothing whatsoever to do with the good of the country at large.

It's the fault of both parties. The first year of a new presidency is just an introduction to the job, a little jabbing on both sides but mostly dancing around getting warmed up. The second year the president actually acts like a president, good or bad. Trying to do stuff. Not so concerned about how this will play in the next election. But then, blammo. Just two years in, and it's time to start looking at the next campaign. On the one side, the president starts going out of his way to do things uniquely partisan, obviously not of the opposing party's agenda. And the opposing party, on the other hand, starts working the other side just as tactically. It gets only worse into year 4, and leading up to the election there is a complete freeze in accomplishment of any kind. So 75% of the presidency wasted. Three years of partisanship to determine the incumbent party during the next 4 year fight.

In the case of a six year, decidedly "lame duck" term, the incumbent president would never ever be a campaigning candidate. How sweet would that be? And lest you think the president would merely be a wild-eyed supporter of his Vice-President and spend a good couple years making him look good, I have a couple of responses.

1. Yeah, right. There is no way that a president limited to a single term, of any length, would waste any of his precious political capital on anything but his own legacy. Even if he did spend time supporting his brother-in-arms, it would probably occur in the final 6 or 10 months leading up to the election during the course of his otherwise busy schedule. That's perhaps 8% of his White-House residency, if it were a 6-year term. The other 92% would be spent, I don't know, working with Congress, trying to leave a superlative impression in his only shot in the big-leagues. You know, trying to be a great president, not a strong incumbent candidate.

2. Usually the VP is the proverbial enemy held close to the vest. (This current Top Two, Bush and Cheney, is by far the most brotherly I've ever seen in my lifetime. But this is an anomoly.) For the most part, at convention time, the VP candidate is usually chosen by the party nominee from a short list of his most ardent opponents in the primary season. It makes for a strong ticket but only by combining two people with quite different positions. A successfully elected president, come the 5th or 6th year of a single term, would have no more interest in supporting his VP than any number of fellow party members.

Well, like I said, it was all a long time ago so this is not a re-hashing of a thesis. It's not even a good recollection of one.



At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the idea that we should keep having to re-elect our leaders. It seems like it should provide some incentive to do a good job (besides, you know, it being their duty as elected officials), but that obviously isn't working. I think this Onion article sums things up pretty well.

After this extraordinarily long campaign, one six-year term actually sounds pretty good. Aleah says that the French president used to be elected for a seven year term, but now they're only there for five years. But, I think they're allowed to run as often as they want (I think Chirac has been president since the war of 1812).

As an added protection against electioneering, part of the amendment could state that, at the end of the six-year term, the vice-president is ceremonially wrapped up in a carpet and dropped off a bridge.

--Mike Sheffler
... turning to the 3-D map, we see an unmistakable cone of ignorance

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Don Sheffler said...

"...the amendment could state that, at the end of the six-year term, the vice-president is ceremonially wrapped up in a carpet and dropped off a bridge."

Yes. As long at this is done with the dignity and respect befitting the Office of the Vice-President of the United States.

So, Yes.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Luke said...

Right, and as Aaron Sorkin has taught us, the VP doesn't do a goddamned thing anyway, so let him campaign in years 5 and 6 whle the current pres just gets things done and years 1-4 as well if he wants. And put the senate on a cycle concurrent with the presidential election, so when the electioneering does go down, the whole system will be ground to a halt for a while but necessarily, and no one will be twiddling their thumbs (any more than usual)

At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Based off of my viewing of the West Wing (I don't remember The American President very well), I don't think Sorkin has the highest respect for the vice presidency. Both the vice presidents have sucked big time on the West Wing. Of course, now that Sorkin is off the show, everyone sucks big time, but that's just because John Wells is a hack.

In fact, I wonder if that amendment could be jiggered a little so that John Wells also gets wrapped up in that carpet. With him in there, it would probably be a little bit less respectful to the vice, but maybe a compromise could be reached by dumping them somewhere nice and historic like the Potomac instead of the East river in New York.

--Mike Sheffler
... turning to the 3-D map, we see an unmistakable cone of ignorance


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