Sunday, November 19, 2006

Random Political Thought of the Day

I'm watching the end of Real Time with Bill Maher from Friday. And he's again beating the drum for ending Presidential term limits. It's a stupid point on a number of levels. To begin with, he's making the point in the context of changing the Constitution over time. His point was the founding fathers couldn't foresee all the things that would come up, and thus we should be having Constitutional conventions to change the Constitution more radically and frequently. I think he's stealing the point from Sanford Levinson's new book, but he doesn't credit Levinson. This may or may not be a good idea (I think Cass Sunstein did a pretty good job responding to it in The New Republic), but Presidential term limits are a counterpoint to that argument. It's an example of people realizing a flaw in the Constitution, and using the Amendment process to change that flaw. Presidential term limits are no reflection of the mistakes of the founding fathers. They came a lot closer to FDR's New Deal, which I'm sure Maher is a much bigger fan of. But aside from all those points, Presidential term limits are a good thing. Yes, I know you like and miss Bill Clinton, Bill. But one of the big problems with politics of the past 20 years is the increasing focus on candidates over policy. And that would become even more magnified if you allowed one person to potentially rule for decades on end. It's good to have voters evaluate new candidates with new ideas. It leads to a healthier democracy. There were reasons for the 22nd Amendment. And taking the stand against Presidential term limits because your ideal previous president (Clinton) seems to be better liked than the other guys' (Dubya) is the very embodiment of partisan silliness over critical analysis of the actual policy.


Anonymous Charlie Kane said...

I'd never heard that Maher was making this case; I'm in total agreement with you, the notion of eliminating term limits is absurd. Yes, sometimes we 'lose' leaders we wish we could keep (I liked ol' Bill Clinton, too, but christ knows it was time for him to go), but as political history shows, the longer a person stays in power the more delusionally 'infallible' they become in their own eyes, and the streams of corruption are sure to follow. One need only look at certain members of Congress from the last twenty years to know that. (Who's kidding who? The last 230 years). Does anybody seriously think this country would be better off if Bill Clinton was starting his 14th year in office? (Maybe, considering who's starting his 7th year, that's a bad example). Time and time again, whether Democrat or Republican, history also tells us that the public grows weary of our leaders by about the 6th year of their administrations--and this includes relatively popular men of recent years in Reagan and Clinton. Maher must realize that, by his logic, this country would have most certainly had at least three terms of Ronald Reagan, which would have been disastrous for any number of reasons. The essence of the democratic system is to avoid any such 'king-making' scenarios, and there are sound and logical rationales for that. FDR's four-terms was, historically, a bit of a fluke anyway--he was, in certain aspects, almost a 'father-king' to many in this country due to his leadership in WWII, the positive effects of the New Deal, and the overwhelming support of the unionists and 'underclasses' who owed his administration a great deal in getting a leg up. I can understand that. I am extremely hard-pressed to think of any other president who ever was deserving of more time than two terms. It seems foolish to alter the constitution, or even to pay lip service to it, for something that would only serve to strengthen the already powerful party/election machines which are a few hitmen short of mafiosi-like as it is. Maher's an entertaining guy, and he's really re-made himself through his political rants and the like, but an expert on constitutional law, or history itself, he ain't.

9:51 PM  

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