On repealing the 22nd amendment

posted at 9:31 am on December 1, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

This is one of those issues which seems to pop up reliably during the second act of every two term presidency. Should we impose term limits on US Presidents and was the 22nd amendment really a good idea? It’s a concept which has been unofficially in place since the first President and was then enshrined in the constitution in 1951 as a backlash against FDR. Of course, the people most exuberant about the idea tend to be supporters of the current White House occupant and for all the wrong reasons. This cycle is no exception, with Jonathan Zimmerman taking to the pages of the Washington Post’s editorial section to argue that Barack Obama deserves a shot at a third term.

“I think our people are to be safely trusted with their own destiny,” Sen. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.) argued in 1947. “We do not need to protect the American people with a prohibition against a president whom they do not wish to elect; and if they wanted to elect him, have we the right to deny them the power?”

It’s time to put that power back where it belongs. When Ronald Reagan was serving his second term, some Republicans briefly floated the idea of removing term limits so he could run again. The effort went nowhere, but it was right on principle. Barack Obama should be allowed to stand for re election just as citizens should be allowed to vote for — or against — him. Anything less diminishes our leaders and ourselves.

Even if you are making the case that term limits shouldn’t apply to the presidency, it should be obvious that it’s a complete non-starter to try to apply it to the current president. The opposition party – in this case the Republicans – are never going to sign on for the 2/3 congressional vote which would be needed. If the opposition holds the White House and the President was popular enough to win back to back elections, you’re not going to risk a third bite at that apple, no matter how far his numbers may be in the tank today. In fact, Congress knew this when they passed the original language, making it non-applicable to the President at the time.

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

That caveat was one of the arguments being made by Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, along with a broader complaint against doing away with term limits.

… I’ve got to say that Zimmerman doesn’t make a particularly strong case for repeal of the Amendment. He repeats the standard general arguments against Term Limits that we’ve heard for quite a long time now, and goes on to argue, paradoxically, that the inability to run again in 2016 both increases and decreases Presidential power. In the end, though, it seems clear to me that eight years, or ten years in the case of a Vice-President who succeeds to the Presidency within no more than two years of the end of President’s term, is more than enough time for any one man or woman to serve in the highest office in the land. Indeed, given the extent to which recent Presidents have tended to gather more and more power into the hands of the Executive Branch that is then utilized by their successors, it is perhaps a good thing for the nation that no one person can serve for more than two terms. Indeed, I’ve come to believe that the concept of term limits should be expanded beyond the Presidency and into the House and Senate, but that is a topic for another day.

Part of Zimmerman’s argument seems to be that it’s somehow inherently “wrong” to impose term limits, and I find that to be rather specious on the face of things. The entire idea of having elected officials and the mechanisms for how they are elected and how long they serve are constructs we created by group consensus. We define different lengths of terms for both elected and appointed offices, ranging from two years for House seats to lifetime positions for Supreme Court justices. We can certainly place similar limits on how many terms they serve if that’s what we choose to do.

But beyond that, I tend to agree with George Washington’s original impulses. The office of the presidency has tremendous power in some areas, and as Doug notes, that power has grown significantly since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Leaving one person at that particular helm for too long strikes me as troubling because that’s how despots are spawned. And the problem with despots is that even if you manage to find a benevolent one, you’re rarely going to generate two in a row. An infusion of fresh blood and new ideas on a regular basis has to be a generally good thing, even if a few of the individual experiments (read: today) may go off the rails for a while. The 22nd amendment has been in place for more than half a century now and I see no need to upset that apple cart at this point.


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I have a question. If the 22nd repeal were to be done, is it via the Senate? And, if so, could Reid’s nuclear option ram it through?

PackerFan4Life on December 1, 2013 at 1:19 PM

Read the Constitution. The answer is in there.

BobMbx on December 1, 2013 at 1:38 PM

The reason that the new Article V process is gaining steam is because people are realizing that short of violence to include succession there is only one Constitutional method left to restore the Republic. That method is the second segment under Article V which shouldtate ws the people via their state the gislatures to circumvent the out of control federal government. This isthe exact reason George Mason fought for its inclusion.Unlike past Article V movements which have been decentralized and focused on one specific idea, this current movement organized at the national level but propelled via the states legislative districts.Currently there are a number of States who are planning on filing or have pre-filed (VA) the common application for a convention of States for the purpose of a amending the Constitution. I have spoken with and already received the an affirm yes vote from my state representative in Florida district 4.The philosophical and historical argument in favor of the process can be found in Mark Levin’s book The Liberty Amendments. The organizational structure to this movement can be found at http://www.conventionofstates.com.All the arguments I have heard against this process were my own prior to getting involved and learning more. Please visithttp://www.conventionofstates.com to learn more.

Meat Fighter on December 1, 2013 at 1:54 PM

I’m thinking we need to limit it to ONE term for president and two for congress.
Nothing good comes from a president’s second term.

AllahsNippleHair on December 1, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Agreed – it’s worth sacrificing the few good ones for the good of the land.

All who brung/kept obama, go directly to Hell. I hope he destroys you all, you sheepleton of the world.

Schadenfreude on December 1, 2013 at 1:21 PM

They can serve their country in another capacity…actually have a Secretary of State that makes a difference.
Copyrighting that one there, lol.

AllahsNippleHair on December 1, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Indeed, I’ve come to believe that the concept of term limits should be expanded beyond the Presidency and into the House and Senate, but that is a topic for another day.

Amen, brother. Amen.

UltimateBob on December 1, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Copyrighting that one there, lol.

AllahsNippleHair on December 1, 2013 at 2:02 PM

NO one is taking it away from you :)

Schadenfreude on December 1, 2013 at 2:08 PM

State employee Unions are another matter entirely.

Johnnyreb on December 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Depends upon the state laws.

Read the Constitution. The answer is in there.

BobMbx on December 1, 2013 at 1:38 PM

The Constitution no longer matters to these jackals. It’s all about mutual back-scratching.

Dr. ZhivBlago on December 1, 2013 at 2:14 PM

claudius on December 1, 2013 at 11:04 AM

I wasn’t thinking impeachment at all.

Numbers of Republican Congressman have said publicly, for example, that he doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to delay parts of Obamacare. Yet they have taken no steps, as they did with the recess appointments, to have the courts rule on this.

EastofEden on December 1, 2013 at 2:19 PM

I rather expect an emergency decree along the line of 10-289 [look it up]. Point One freezes all jobs to the current occupant. It would just “accidentally” leave the current regime [of both wings of the Permanent Governing Party] in office for the duration of the emergency. Nothing in government lasts as long as a “temporary emergency”.

Subotai Bahadur on December 1, 2013 at 2:31 PM

As usual, the bastard has his nose in the air ( in the pic with this story).

avagreen on December 1, 2013 at 3:01 PM

And the problem with despots is that even if you manage to find a benevolent one, you’re rarely going to generate two in a row.

Even a “benevolent” despot cannot help but cause harm simply because they cannot know everything. Even a malevolent dictator can do better by simply practicing restraint in dictation.

Count to 10 on December 1, 2013 at 3:16 PM

We should have term limits across the board including limits on consecutive terms by immediate family members, lifetime bans on lobbying for foreign countries or corporations in exchange for a limited term as a public servant and.

Otherwise, don’t bother serving the public.

rickyricardo on December 1, 2013 at 3:21 PM

Why in the world would anyone even bring that up. We’ve already seen what Obama’s doing to our Constitution. Illegally filling seats in the NLRB, illigal atrocities committed by the DOJ,EPA,NSA,IRS and not one fired or in jail. They bend the laws to meet their needs with a simple minority. Jam the courts with wacko Liberal/Socialist judges that will explode the law books. Wouldn’t be surprising to see a future tax on inhaled air. Senior citizens will pay more with an option to opt out with approval of the ‘death panel’ they can legally be snuffed out.

RdLake on December 1, 2013 at 3:25 PM

If it was repealed to allow a 3rd term and the current occupier isn’t allowed, he could always wait 4 more years to run for a 3rd term. Maybe this is why they are floating the ‘we may not leave DC in 2017′ rumor. This is way worse than a WWE tag team match with us knocked out on the ropes.

Kissmygrits on December 1, 2013 at 3:46 PM

I have a question. If the 22nd repeal were to be done, is it via the Senate? And, if so, could Reid’s nuclear option ram it through?

PackerFan4Life on December 1, 2013 at 1:19 PM

It has to be passed by 2/3 of the house and 2/3 of the senate; and then goes to the states where it must be passed/approved by 3/4 of the state legislatures.

That’s why the ERA never went anyplace. It died in the state legislatures (even with added time).

Solaratov on December 1, 2013 at 4:02 PM

Term limits are a great idea. One is a great number. I see little benefit to be gained through the maintenance of a perpetual ruling class, and would gladly see all elected positions limited to a single term.

cthulhu on December 1, 2013 at 4:41 PM

Barack Obama is the strongest argument this nation has ever produced for the wisdom of term limits.

AcronisF on December 1, 2013 at 4:54 PM

The office of the presidency has tremendous power in some areas, and as Doug notes, that power has grown significantly since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Leaving one person at that particular helm for too long strikes me as troubling because that’s how despots are spawned.

All the more reason to go the other direction concerning term limits. In the current era, given the vast and significant executive powers a president has at his or her disposal, the argument can be made that 1 six-year term is the better route, then lifting term limits.

And finally add term limits for Senators and Representatives in Congress. Term limits would be wise for the Supreme Court. And while we’re amending the Constitution, Supreme Court nominees should have two-thirds support in the Senate to pass.

Eastwood Ravine on December 1, 2013 at 4:57 PM

Repeal of the 22nd in that it denies the people the right to chose is valid.
The flaw is that “We The People” do not vote for the President.
Do away with the Electoral College and then we can talk.

End of discussion.

I am in favor of expansion of the 22nd to cover “Family Dynasties”. After all what is the difference of having W. Clinton for 8 years and H. Clinton for 8 years. Don’t we still have “Clinton Family Values” for 16 years? All of which is based on, none, zero, not at all voting input from “We The People”.

Also tighten up the serving of a two term president, “NOT VOTED IN BY THE PEOPLE” (BACK DOOR ELECTIONS), to serve as a Ghost President (VP) for another 8 years.

Yet again, a two term President serving as the next Vp, only to have the President resign.

In all cases it is imperative to keep focused on the main argument, not the intentional misdirection, and that is that it is not “We The People” that elect “The President of the United States” but it is the prevailing party System” that tells “We The People” what is good for us.

On 20-20 Obama has already told Barbra Walters that he intends to stay another 3 years after his 2nd term. All that is being done here is sending up “Trial Balloons” to see which way will work.

jpcpt03 on December 1, 2013 at 5:04 PM

A third Obama term? Kill me now.

Cindy Munford on December 1, 2013 at 5:14 PM

Zimmerman………just another Kool Aid drinker. I’m surprised he didn’t just go the whole 9 yards and propose that Obama be declared KING!

GarandFan on December 1, 2013 at 7:21 PM

I’d really be interested to know what Xena, Warrior Princess, a.k.a. Christine Quinn thinks about it. She was promised the next slot if she helped Nanny Bloomberg trash the NYC Charter. Did the trick for Mikey, not so good for her.

Mr. Grump on December 1, 2013 at 7:52 PM

QUESTION: How many ways can Obama be removed from office?
ANSWER: Many.

Most are illegal and Not even up for listing.
Many are legal but up for much legal debate.

Here goes my short list.

1.Show that he was never qualified for the office. I do not mean the birther arguments. His mother was a citizen therefore it does not matter where he was born, he is qualified for the office. What does matter is what happened in Indonesia and Kenna. Did he give up his Citizenship? The evidence and records have been pretty well laundered.
2.Term limitation under the 22nd.
3.Impeachment.
4.Isolation. This like what happened with Clinton after his Impeachment. He was not remove from office but stayed low out of country until everything cooled down.
5.Incapacity under the section 4 of the 25th. He retains the title but no duties. Can be determined my a majority vote of his cabinet.
6.Military control of Government. Not as far out as you may think. The Oath taken is a list of priorities. The first is to defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC. Each year since 1967 every member of the military gets a class on their obligation to ignore unlawful orders. In the last 12 months this has been used at least twice by our Military against orders and or plans of Obama. The first was in libya and the second was the pending attack on Syria. Both ended in the suspicious discrediting and reassignment of many high ranking officers.

jpcpt03 on December 1, 2013 at 8:53 PM

Just read my previous post. Good grief, I am never going to attempt a post from my phone again.

Meat Fighter on December 1, 2013 at 8:56 PM

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