Left-leaning comedian/political commentator Bill Maher actually said something thought-provoking about the presidency. He suggests amending the Constitution so that future presidents only serve one six-year term. Politico reported that Maher wrote about his proposal last Tuesday.
He said that presidents spend much of their first term campaigning for the second and that by the time they get reelected, they’re about to become a lame duck.
“Everybody agrees they have maybe two years to get anything accomplished, and then people stop returning their calls,” Maher blogged, adding later: “This is why there are so many second-term scandals: boredom.”
He continued: “Why not give presidents one six-year term where they don’t have to worry about re-election or raising money or anything but trying to pass the test of history? Especially since they really only have six years anyway, and then the next election starts.”
Maher said that if he had his way, President Barack Obama would’ve gotten more done in his first term on issues like gay marriage and gun control.
However, in typical Maher fashion, he concluded that Republicans wouldn’t have tried to destroy the economy to prevent Barack Obama’s re-election.
I’m no fan of amending the Constitution for trivial reasons, especially when it concerns the Bill of Rights. It’s a document that wasn’t meant to be fungible. Just as it’s hard to ram through legislation that will change the social dynamics of this country, the Founders made sure it was even harder to change the Constitution in order to prevent tyrannical majorities. Nevertheless, Maher’s post actually is a discussion worth having regarding the 22nd Amendment.
Historically, a president’s second term is usually fraught with disappointment, scandal, controversy, or a toxic combination of all three. Eisenhower’s second term administration 1958 recession that decimated Republicans in the midterms. Nixon was forced to resign the presidency when Watergate, and other felonious activities from his political team were exposed. Reagan had to maneuver through Iran-Contra Affair, which exposed the administration’s operations to circumvent Congress – and the Boland Amendment – which had virtually cut off funding to the anti-communist Contras forces in Nicaragua. Bill Clinton had problems with the interns. In all, government during a second term administration have been lackluster at best.
I agree with Maher that Presidents would be able to be more aggressive in their agendas, and focus solely on governing the country. They wouldn’t be trying to juggle those responsibilities, fundraising, and endless meetings about how to slice and dice the country in order to get 270 electoral votes.
Then again, what would’ve happened with the Iraq Surge? George W. Bush would’ve been making preparations to leave the White House by the time he addressed the nation about the new strategy in January of 2007. For argument’s sake, let’s say Sen. Barack Obama was elected president in the 2006. How would he have handled the surge? So far, Obama’s Afghan Surge has been an abject failure. Furthermore, how would’ve Obama handled, hypothetically, the 2008 financial crisis? Would he have pushed for nationalization of the banks? Would he have lobbied harder for a trillion dollar stimulus? How about single-payer health care, or a new assault weapons ban? With no need to mobilize for a re-election campaign, Obama would’ve been more aggressive – and more liberal – with his policy initiatives. It would be the same for any future chief executive after him.
I’m not saying that I’m for the change, but we should at least have an honest debate about it. As we progress into the future, it’s inevitable that another Barack Obama will emerge from the cesspool of American progressivism, and mount a campaign for the presidency. If he – or she – wins, this neo-Obama could be more liberal than the first. Do conservatives want to endure eight years of hell, or six?