Paul Jacob

By long tradition and established doctrine, the pope is said to be the anointed Vicar of Christ. When we speak of limiting the terms for American presidents or judges or representatives, on the other hand, no one with a foot firmly planted in reality can make that claim ? or anything approaching it ? for our politicians. They don't have quite the pope's degree of "anointedness," now, do they? We cannot point to one, and not another, and say with any certainty that "this man (or woman) is on God's side" or "this man is of the Devil." Democratic politics doesn't work that way.

Though I make no recommendations to the Catholic Church, I do find it worth noting that if good Catholics can contemplate a term limit for the pope, then certainly citizens should see the virtues of term limits for their public servants.

Term limits, after all, make sense for many reasons. (In fact, they make common sense, which is one reason I call my free e-letter Common Sense.) With a career in politics less an option, the republican ideal of citizen involvement could flourish again. And with less time in office, legislators and executives would have less time to consolidate power and accumulate the bad habits of corruption and logrolling and a dozen other features of today's precarious democracy.

We have such limits for the Presidency of the United States, for 36 governors, and for the legislators in 15 states. We need them, sorely, for the U.S. House and Senate, and for the Supreme Court. We should be talking, now, about extending term limits ? and by this I do not mean the weasel-word usage of "extending term limits" that newspapers and politicians bandy about; I do not mean extending terms. Such talk is nothing else than weakening term limits. No, "extending term limits" means extending them to cover more positions. More legislatures. More executives. More judicial positions. Perhaps more bureaucratic positions, too.

Whether they make sense for the pope, well, that's another matter entirely. And none of my business.

But for public servants in these United States of America? That's every American's business.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.