Keep the two-term limit for presidents

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By John Barnhart

    Back when President Barack Obama was first inaugurated in 2009, I was concerned that “Democrats” would decide that it was a good time to repeal the 22nd Amendment, which limits presidents to a maximum of two terms. That concern dissipated as 2009 progressed and President Obama’s approval rating headed south. Now that President Obama’s approval rating is not much higher than President George W. Bush’s was at the end of his second term, I’m surprised that Rick Howell would bring the subject up. Surely he doesn’t think that Barack Obama is three- or four-term president material? President Obama is going to have his work cut out to keep from getting flushed out of the White House in 2012.

    Two centuries ago, President George Washington set a valuable precedent when he refused to accept a third term as president. If he had not done that, he could have set the new-born republic on the road to presidents-for-life, something that is not healthy for a democracy.
    Fortunately, President Washington set a precedent for two terms and no more, a precedent that all of those who held the office after him observed. An exception was Ulysses S. Grant who wanted a third term. Republicans wouldn’t go for it and refused to nominate him.
    Then came Franklin Roosevelt and the election of 1940. Adolf Hitler had already conquered Poland in 1939; 1940 would see Nazi Germany swallow Denmark, Norway, Holland Belgium and France. British forces were driven from the continent.
    In the face of what was happening, President Roosevelt wrestled with whether he should seek a third term. It seems that, if it had not been for the outbreak of World War II, he would have never done it. After deciding to seek a third term, and winning it, President Roosevelt chose a bipartisan cabinet, ready for war when it came. He ran for his fourth term in 1944, again apparently motivated more by the war than by a desire to hang on to the office.
    I question Mr. Howell’s assertion that the 22nd Amendment was a result of vengeful Republicans angry about FDR’s four terms. It was obvious that, after President Washington’s precedent had been broken, the two-term limit needed to be codified in the Constitution.
    It was interesting to read that Mr. Howell believes that Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, would have been a better president than John Kennedy, a Democrat, had it been possible for him to run for a third term. Yes, I agree, a third term for Ike would have given us a better president than John Kennedy. There certainly would have been no massive U. S. troop involvement in Vietnam had President Eisenhower served a third term as Lyndon Johnson would have never become president.
    Nevertheless, I believe that limiting presidents to no more than two terms is a good idea and this provision needs to remain. With rare exceptions, our presidents walk out of the White House on their own two feet, rather than being carried out of the White House in a box. The two term limit makes sure it stays that way. Opening the door for presidents to be reelected indefinitely opens the door to president-for-life. Most are not going to want to simply let go of the most powerful office in the world and some would get themselves reelected over and over until they either died or became mentally incapacitated. What sort of things would they be willing to stoop to in order to hang onto the Oval Office?
    Of course, neither Mr. Howell nor I are likely to live long enough to personally find out, but I think that Americans would be wise not to take this gamble. Let’s leave the 22nd Amendment in place and make sure that none of these scoundrels ever gets more than two terms.