The Curse of the Second Term
I think we might want to seriously consider rescinding the Twenty Second Amendment.
Personally, I would support replacing this amendment with one that creates a single presidential term of six years. Why? Because second term presidents seem to have worse luck than the Chicago Cubs.
But isn’t luck really just destiny for the superstitious?
Is Karl Rove guilty? Is he innocent? What did he say and when did he say it? Who are Novak's sources? What did Rove tell Bush and when did he tell him? Was Bush just kidding when he said he'd fire the person responsible for outing Plame?
Who knows? Who cares? If recent history is any the guide, Rove is going to go from the White House to the big house for lying to either the grand jury or the FBI or both, not for planting a vindictive story in the newspapers.
Most importantly, however, am I the only one to notice how incredibly similar this incipient scandal is to all of the other second term scandals since the Amendment was adopted? (Notwithstanding Eisenhower, of course, who was one of the least partisan Presidents in American history.)
Don't they all seem to go something like this?
1) President is up for re-election.
2) President does something that would hurt his chances for re-election. He:
A) Authorizes a "dirty tricks" campaign against his opponents and bugs their headquarters
B) Cuts a deal with terrorists to trade spare military parts for hostages & then uses the profits from those sales to fund an illegal insurgency.
C) Screws around with an intern
D) Wants to finish a job his dad started, so he invents some phony reasons to start a war.
3) Opponents get suspicious and sic a special prosecutor on him or his key aides
4) President and/or key aides lie their asses off to cover up the peccadillo
5) President gets re-elected
6) President and/or key aides accused of obstruction of justice and/or perjury
7) Opponents act like the Claude Raines character in Casablanca by being "Shocked! Shocked!" that the President and/or his aides would stoop to lying about something they didn't want the voters to know.
8) The President and/or his aides are indicted or convicted or impeached or forced to resign.
9) The public's attention is distracted from the important issues confronting the nation; President's second term falls apart; and the country suffers by
A) Losing the war in Vietnam
B) Supporting Saddam Hussein after he uses nerves gas against his own people
C) Ignoring the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and thinking that lobbing a couple of cruise missiles at him will intimidate him
Well, I for one am beginning to get the hint, and recall words of George Santayana:
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
When it comes to re-elected Presidents, that old Skeptic Santayana certainly nailed it.
All right, enough already. The Twenty Second Amendment is turning into the worst example of The Law of Unforeseen Consequences since the Volstead Act created the Mafia. Well, we repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, and I say that it's high time that we do the same thing with the Twenty Second. We've had five two-term Presidents since it was adopted. We're 1 for 5 and 0 for the last 4. How many of these consecutive scandals is it going to take for us to realize that they aren't coincidental?
My personal preference would be for one six-year term. Six years and out. Go write your memoirs, jump out of airplanes, build your library, or help your wife get elected President. (My God, does Hilary Clinton really want to become the Lurleen Wallace of the new millenium?) This way the President (and/or his/her overzealous aides) would be less tempted to use the vast powers of the executive branch of the federal government for partisan political purposes or to act as if he/she was above the law in order to maintain political power.
In short, I think that the stakes are so high (or at least they're perceived as such) and the temptations are so great that mere mortals cannot resist the expediency of lying to retain the office of the Presidency. And, like other mere mortals, they always think that they can get away with it. And because the office is so powerful, they're always right, at least until after the election. Although the wheels of justice may grind slowly, they do grind and (notwithstanding Ronald Reagan's senility) the truth will out eventually. That's why God invented special prosecutors in the first place.
So fasten your seat belts, boys and girls, here we go again. If history is any guide, it's going to get a lot uglier before it gets any better. My question is, after September 11th can we really afford it this time? Is a weakened and distracted presidency in our nation's best interest? Does our implacable rancor really know no bounds? And most importantly, do we really want to see how much worse George Bush governs the United States without his brains?Posted by Chuck Hanrahan at July 12, 2005 8:07 PM