Victor Davis Hanson

The second terms of the latest three presidents have not been successful. Bill Clinton was impeached after his infamous lie to Americans, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

George W. Bush was blamed for the postwar violence in Iraq.

Barack Obama's scandals -- with his accompanying "limited hangout" denials -- are ruining his second term: the growing IRS messes, the Associated Press monitoring, the NSA embarrassments, the Benghazi killings, the Syria bluster and backdown, and, of course, the Obamacare fiasco and the misleading statements about it.

What are other common denominators of this collective tenure of our recent presidents?

After popular first terms and re-election, they seemed to have lost public confidence and the ability to continue an agenda.

Do two terms wear out a president?

Maybe the hubris of getting re-elected convinces our commanders in chief that they are mostly beyond reproach. Overreach ensues. Then the goddess Nemesis descends in destructive fashion to remind them that they are mere mortals.

In addition, the more talented Cabinet and staff appointees often bail out near the end of the first term. At best, they burn out from continuous 16-hour-work days. At worst, they flee to leverage their formerly high-profile jobs through revolving-door influence-peddling, finding new work in the media, lobbying, consulting and Wall Street.

Boredom, both on the part of the president and the public, takes its toll. Clinton was an effective speaker -- at first. Near the end of his eight years, the public's eyes rolled when he predictably misled, exaggerated or became petulant.

Bush was witty and sincere in repartee and impromptu speaking but often stumbled over the teleprompter. By the end of his eight years, his critics were publishing books of Bush malapropisms.

It is hard now to believe that Obama's banal "hope and "change" ever set a nation on fire. Certainly by 2013, we have come to snore when Obama for the nth time laces his teleprompted rhetoric with "make no mistake about it" or "let me be perfectly clear."

One-term presidencies -- or a constitutional change to a single six-year presidential term -- make better sense. A single presidential tenure might curtail an incumbent's customary exaggerations about supposed past achievements and the phony promises about great things to come that are both apparently necessary for re-election. Much of wasteful federal spending and general bad policy derives from the re-election efforts of an incumbent desperate to appease or buy off the electorate.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.