by Larry Floersch
Many folks in Washington seem to have “lame” on their brains these days. As in “lame duck.”
To some people it seems, any president who wins reelection automatically becomes a lame duck because he or she cannot run again. Based on that premise, a president gets four years in office and can do things and then four years in office in which he or she is not supposed to do anything but host galas at the White House and play golf. That seems an odd way to run a country, especially because some of the people talking about lame duckiness consider themselves to be “fiscal conservatives.” We pay the person in the White House $400,000 annually (along with a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment). Not to mention the president and first family get to live in a mansion (albeit aging) rent free. That amounts to more than $2,276,000 over four years. Sure, that’s chump change to a lot of corporate executives, but we’re paying someone to do nothing!
Lame duckiness for presidents was established by the 22nd amendment to the Constitution, which limits presidents to two terms. Before that, a president got one term and then had to win reelection. Oh, wait, they still have to do that. Just ask George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Herbert Hoover, William Taft, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, Martin Van Buren, John Quincy Adams, and John Adams how easy it is to win reelection after your first term. None of them did. And, of course, before the passage of the 22nd amendment, if a president won reelection, he was expected to fulfill the duties of the president until the next election, because he could run again and it would look bad to voters if the president just played golf and hosted galas for four years.
Such an approach worked for FDR, who won an election, then another, then another, then another, presumably because the voters felt he had done a good job. He is the only president to serve more than three terms, although other presidents, such as Ulysses S. Grant, tried and failed to get elected to a third term. FDR had the good sense to die before the people could elect him to a fifth term, but his prowess in winning elections prompted the passage, in 1947, and the ratification, in 1951, of the 22nd amendment. I guess his detractors felt that the voters had made the same mistake over and over again, and there was no other way to “protect the will of the people.”
Some have suggested we just amend the Constitution to give the president one term of eight years. Such a change would certainly cut down on those annoying political ads on TV every four years. And it would make it easier on voters, who would only have to spend that onerous five minutes in the voting booth once every eight years. But guess what?! If we did that, for some people the president would become a lame duck as soon as he or she was elected, and then we would have to pay the president to do nothing for EIGHT years.
The lame-duck commotion at the moment is about the current president nominating someone to be on the Supreme Court. Detractors of the current president say the job should be left to the next president, and that allowing the current president to nominate someone to the court would “subvert the will of the people.” How they know the will of the people six months before the election is difficult to fathom. The last time the will of the people was determined was three and a half years ago, when they put the current president back in office. And, as we all know from our third grade logic class, such an approach can lead to an argumentum ad infinitum. If the nomination should be left to the next president, would it not be better to leave it to the president after the next president, or the president after the president after the next president?
Let’s face it. Lame duckiness for a sitting president is that period between the election of a new president in November and the inauguration of that new president in January. If we think about it that way we would only have to pay the current president for about two and a half months of doing nothing, which is a lot more fiscally conservative.
The whole thing is beyond lame. It’s Daffy.