Some people would have you believe I’m as stubborn as a Missouri mule. I prefer to think I’m principled, that I say what I mean and mean what I say. By the time I take a position, I have considered the pros and cons, balanced off the positive and the negative, considered it from every angle, and only then voiced an opinion. After all that, it would take dynamite or a very sizable bribe to make me change my mind. However, I have done that very thing and I don’t even have a freezer full of cash to show for it.
The issue is term limits. When people first began making a case for them, I was completely opposed. I felt that if the voters were happy with their elected officials, it was only right they be free to keep re-electing them. I have completely reversed my position. For one thing, I have come to believe that incumbents have far too great an advantage over their challengers. These days, I don’t want any of them -- even those few I actually approve of -- staying in office for more than a few years. I also don’t want them to be allowed to run for some other office. Here in California, where we have term limits, the politicians simply play their version of musical chairs, whereby once they’ve used up their time in, say, the assembly, they then make a run to be a state senator, mayor or U.S. congressman.
The sad fact of the matter is that those people who spend their entire careers in so-called public service do not regard themselves as our servants, but as our masters.
A recent study found that mental abilities peak, on average, at the age of 22 and begin declining five years later. If true, it would help explain the state of things in our nation’s capitol, where the average age of the hundred senators is 65, with New Jersey’s Lautenberg and Hawaii’s Inouye and Akaka all in their mid-80s, while Robert Byrd, who will soon be entering his third childhood, was born shortly after Woodrow Wilson was re-elected.
I wouldn’t want to make too big a deal of age, except to suggest that there is something unseemly about men in their 70s, 80s and 90s, who haven’t done an honest day’s work in the past five or six decades, and have instead devoted their time to building up fiefdoms the size of which would have turned old English dukes and earls green with envy.
I also wouldn’t want to place too much emphasis on intelligence when it comes to our elected officers. Scientists and mathematicians often have abnormally high IQs. Politicians, on the other hand, have enormously huge egos and insatiable appetites for power and celebrity.