Is It Time To Repeal Presidential Term Limits?

Without term limits, many fear president would outlive his “sell-by” date

The experts are giving it little chance of passage, but H.J. Resolution 15, a repeal of presidential term limits, is stirring a lot of talk.

U.S. Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) has (once again) introduced a resolution to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If the resolution is approved by Congress and ratified by the states, it would once again allow a president to serve more than two four-year terms.

Doomsayers are already up in arms about the possibilities of an American monarchy. They fear that without term limits, an individual would become permanently entrenched in the office, either by clever abuse of power or by our just getting used to him, like that irregularly shaped mole on your back that you keep meaning to do something about. (“I swear, I’m voting that guy out of office next time — ooo, there’s a Three Stooges marathon on cable!”)

Yeah, right. The freedom to run multiple grueling reelection campaigns is Number One on the wish list of would-be tyrants in Third World nations. (“Let’s see…I could pump millions into a never-ending series of campaign ads — or I could pump hot lead into my predecessor and any opposition. *Sigh* Decisions, decisions.”)

Other voters fear that even the most honorable chief executive would inevitably outlive his “sell-by” date. Instead of traveling everywhere with Air Force One, he’d travel everywhere with Fiber One. He’d have to get his grandkids to help him figure out how to press the launch-the-nukes button. When he sought to buy our votes with goodies, he’d do it in a trench coat, near the playground.

Of course some of the behind-the-scenes manipulators would never be satisfied. (“Y’know, if we replaced his blood with that stuff they used to put in Twinkies, he’d probably have another two or three terms of shelf life.”)

Perhaps those squeamish about the term limits resolution would be pacified if it provided for a gradual decline of presidential perks each time a president was reelected. Besides reductions in salary and medical care, this could include changing the Lincoln bedroom linens only once every fourscore and seven years or secretly replacing one random Secret Service agent’s gun with a Super Soaker.

We could also find ways to handicap the incumbent each time he sought reelection. Maybe all the “photo ops” would require the chief of staff to make devil horns behind the president’s head, or “Hail To The Chief” could be altered to sound more like “The Chicken Dance.”

Some citizens are satisfied that a president would eventually “jump the shark” in TV terms and ruin his own immortality. (“Instead of a new White House cat, we’re adopting a cute British kid. And wait’ll you see the zany new neighbors moving into 1601 Pennsylvania Avenue!”)

Repealing the 22nd Amendment on presidential term limits is not a priority for me, but it’s certainly a fascinating topic that cries out for discussion.

Whatever your political leanings, the various “what if?” scenarios show just how complex the whole issue is. If Ronald Reagan had served extra terms, would there have been a Clinton presidency? If Bill had hung around longer, would there have been a Barack Obama White House? It’s enough to make Marty McFly jump into the DeLorean with Doc Brown and yell “C’mon, Doc, we’re going back to the days of wooden teeth!”

Danny Tyree
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