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Web letter by Don Hicks: Maddening legacy shows need for term limits

The first election I can recall paying much attention to was in 1952, for Republican Dwight Eisenhower and Richard (Tricky Dick) Nixon, and Democrat Adlai Stevenson, who lost. What followed was eight years of “dynamic drifting.” The campaign was a lot shorter, I think, and it seems like the next one in 1956 was also brief.

As I have watched 15 major elections and as many minor ones in my life, it seems that each campaign has gotten longer and nastier. No one can stick to the issues at hand anymore; they revert to mudslinging, spinning the facts, making up facts and out-and-out prevarication.

The House and Senate saw fit to start a constitutional amendment limiting the president to two terms after Franklin Roosevelt won four rounds in the Oval Office. They conveniently left themselves the right to run as many times as the folks back home would vote for them. Look what we have now – gridlock. (The Founding Fathers did not want politics to be a career.)

Freshman congressmen and senators start campaigning almost as soon as they are sworn in. Even the sitting president starts campaigning halfway through the first term. This must mean that they are more concerned about keeping the job than working for the folks at home who put them there in the first place.

Perhaps the cure for this is term limits for both houses, the vice president and the president. Six years in office, period. No second terms for anyone. Put a spending cap on the money that a candidate can spend, like $1 million. Think of the money that might be saved and put to some really useful endeavor.

Campaigning would be limited to January to November of the election year. Eliminate the unlimited PAC contributions so the House, Senate and the president are not controlled by a shadow government.

New people entering the political arena would not sign a petition stating they would or would not vote for certain legislation, so they will not be “owned” by special interests. If this were to be instigated this year, the next election would be in 2018. Six years of relative peace and quiet on the political front would be so restful.

1961 John F. Kennedy and 1963-68 Lyndon Baines Johnson. Democrats whose policies landed the U.S. on the moon.

1969 Republican Richard (“I am not a crook”) Nixon had his “enemies list.” Republican Vice President Spiro Agnew was nailed for tax evasion. Gerald Ford became president by default after being named vice president after Agnew’s departure and became president when Nixon resigned after Watergate.

1977-81 Democrat James Earl Carter, who some say was a bad president, did the right thing after the Iranian Embassy kidnapping and did not campaign for a second term while negotiating for the release of those Americans.

1981-89 Republican Ronald (trickle-down theory – which we now know did not work) Reagan did not invite Carter to be present at the return of the hostages.

1989-93 Republican George H.W. Bush.

1993-2001 Democrat Bill (Slick Willy) Clinton, who, as a Rhodes Scholar, protested against the Vietnam war, later ironically served as commander in chief, left office supposedly with a surplus in the Treasury that was quickly wiped out by Republican George W. Bush and the Iraq and Afghan wars.

2009 Barack Obama inherited the financial mess left by the Bush wars and the financial meltdown caused by greed or maybe gross incompetence (bad mortgages) of the heads of banks and the folks on Wall Street. His acceptance speech on Sept. 6 was on the money, even with some distortions: It will take a few years to correct the things that have gone wrong for several decades.

It is not easy to understand wanting to be president, as the post represents great responsibilities and power. Otherwise, who in their right mind would logically spend hundreds of millions of dollars for a job that pays $400,000 and expenses per year.

So, it seems that, for the last 200+ years, we have had presidents good and bad from both parties. The upshot of all this is the saying, “If a politician’s lips are moving, it is quite likely that person is lying.” What a heritage.

DON HICKS

Fort Wayne

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