Politics

TERM LIMITS?

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Bear in mind that, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

I am still not a firm believer in term limits. (I don’t like the idea of messing around with the constitution unnecessarily.) I have always seen the concept of term limits as limiting the people’s right to choose whomever they wish to represent them. Republicans, frustrated by FDR’s unprecedented third and fourth elections, managed to push through the 22nd Amendment to limit a President to two terms. I have always thought that was a mistake, even though without it we might have had another decade of Ronald Reagan in the White House—Alzheimer’s notwithstanding. The checks and balances built into the system should take care of such anomalies.

The key word in that last sentence is should.

Unfortunately, lack of term limits on members of Congress has given us at least a decade and a half of gridlock in Washington. So—I am slowly (ever so slowly) coming to Warren Buffet’s view that we should limit the number of years that one can occupy a chair in either the House of Representatives or the Senate—or even the Supreme Court, for that matter. It does take a certain amount of time to settle into a new job and it helps to have some old hands who have “been around” to teach the newbies how to get on. Limiting senators to two terms and representatives to five, seems a reasonable goal—one that exceeds the maximum for a President. Supreme Court justices need to be free of any sense of obligation to the man (or his party) who appointed them. The present life term does that, but probably a limited term of, say, 15 years would work as well.

And while we are in the business of limiting their terms of office, how about doing something about the inordinately high salaries and cushy retirement bennies members of Congress have managed to set for themselves?

Trouble is: these ideas would require a Constitutional Amendment. Can you see Congress initiating such an amendment? Even more improbable is the idea that such initiation would come from the electorate or from State governments.

Still—consistency be damned—one can dream . . .

A WOMAN PRESIDENT—IN THE U.S.???

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The idea of a woman as President of the U.S. is appalling to many. I suspect that, often as not, those who say, “I am not opposed to a woman President. Just not this one” are really ignoring—or unwilling to acknowledge—their antipathy to the very idea of a woman in the highest office of the land. This attitude is usually held by men “of a certain age,” but, sadly, some women (brainwashed by such men?) also hold the view that a woman is incapable of performing the tasks of the highest office of our land.

They fail to recognize that women have, in fact, already performed some of those tasks—and in America yet! Edith Wilson was probably much more than merely her husband’s mouthpiece after he suffered a debilitating stroke. Nancy Reagan, who was invariably at her husband’s side during public appearances in the last years of his Presidency, showed a remarkable understanding of issues that must have been discussed previously in the oval office or the White House situation room. Eleanor Roosevelt was so outspoken about public affairs after her husband’s death that it is hard to see her as merely a “stand-in” for her crippled spouse at public events during his Presidency.

In recent decades, we have seen women perform ably as the chief executives of other countries: Golda Meier in Israel, Indira Gandhi in India, Benazir Bhutto next door in Pakistan, Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain, Angela Merkel in Germany. But not in the United States, though women in Congress have shown remarkable understanding and insights to issues affecting the body politic, not to mention those who have served as governors.

Moreover, earlier history also gives us examples of women leaders who commanded tremendous power. Think Cleopatra of Egypt, Elizabeth I of England, Christina of Sweden, Catherine the Great of Russia, for starters.

If you oppose a particular individual because of his or her policies and/or previous performance, fine. But gender should not be a factor in choosing public servants.