Paul Jacob

Is it possible? Could I have downplayed the benefits of term limits all these years?

I have been advocating and defending the term limit idea for such a long time that it seems unlikely I could have misjudged it by deprecation, no matter how mild.

But it’s worth pondering, especially in light of the current presidential contest.

The presidency has been blessed with term limits since before my time. Or, I should say, America has been long blessed with limited presidential terms. But, as I survey the upcoming likely two-party presentations — Barack Obama versus John McCain (let’s not contemplate the horror of a Hillary possibility, for just a few paragraphs, anyway) — I am underwhelmed. It’s senator versus senator.

A youngster versus an oldster, true, but it’s still a sitting politician vying against a sitting politician.

The two most interesting dark horses of the campaign, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, were also both sitting politicians. And each of them recently won (in effect) their House seats for another term. That is, they survived primary contests.

A number of former representatives and officials had run this outing: Huckabee and Romney had both been governors, and both exited their positions last year. The odor of “sitting politician” still lingered. Any such odor had long since evaporated from Mike Gravel, a former maverick senator from Alaska (1969-1981). Accordingly, the media hardly took his candidacy seriously.

Of the major players, only John Edwards stood out as the odd man, little like an actual incumbent. He had served a mere single term as U.S. senator years ago. But, now that I think it over, he did run as the official nominee of the Democratic Party for the Vice Presidency in 2004 . . . so an odor of the oil of anointing lingered. Long enough for the press to smell out his particular bouquet as “electable,” anyway.

And that’s what I’m getting at. I’m not trying to be fancy with an old-fashioned word. Let’s face it: There is a quasi-religious idea embedded in the succession of men (and now women) for power. It’s not a torch passed, but oil anointed. It’s the nearest thing to apostolic succession. If anointed, you are considered “electable.” And you basically get this anointing by being in power. And maintaining it.

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.