Thursday, July 03, 2008

Thoughts on a President who promises one term

On websites at the state and national level, pundits are bouncing around the idea that McCain will announce that if elected he would only serve one term. Those pundits are writing as if McCain would be the first Presidential candidate to ever do so.

In modern history, those pundits are correct. However, Presidents have made clear their desire to not serve beyond the term they sought. President James K. Polk, perhaps the most underrated President of the United States by conventional wisdom, promised to only serve one term. President Polk achieved every large goal he sought. He secured the Oregon Territory from the British. His pursuit of war with Mexico resulted in California, Texas and the other states that make up the Southwest of the United States coming under the control of the United States.

At a turning point in American history, President Polk was free to be President first and have no worries about the next election, and history shows what he achieved for the country in one term outweighed what a potential four more years could have achieved.

Another President who got a lot done in his last promised term was Theodore Roosevelt. Though he had served three years filling out the term of slain President William McKinley, Roosevelt promised not to seek the Presidency in 1908 when he sought a term in his own name in 1904. That freed Theodore Roosevelt to push for a strong navy and to the construction of the Panama Canal without worrying about election consequences. As with Polk, Roosevelt was free to act as a President at a turning point in history without worries about an election.

Together the one term of Polk and the term of Roosevelt in his own name were instrumental in shaping the United States into the power it is today.

Now, it can be argued that the United States is at another crucial turning point in its history. It would be appealing to American voters for either major Presidential candidate to stand up and say, “If you elect me, I will not waste one moment of my time as President worrying about re-election, instead I will do the job for all the American people, not just those who could support me for re-election.”

It would be a refreshing change from the politics we unfortunately have grown accustomed to in the United States and be a throwback to a time when the men who sought the Presidency had the belief that the office was bigger than their own short term political ambitions.

The only potential problem such a statement from a candidate could face comes from the vast majority of the media, bloggers and pundits. Far too many of them have a mindset that is ignorant of history. It is simply foreign to them that a candidate for President would not want to seek as much time with power as possible. Calling such a move “weak” or a “gimmick” would be easier for those press and pundits less inclined to do hard thinking and a little reading of history. Those folks just will not get it. They would more likely write about Mrs. McCain’s fashion or Mr. Obama’s church than they would about how a Presidential candidate was putting the Presidency and the country above himself. If it is their mindset that defines the country right now, then the turn we take at this crucial time in our country’s history might not turn out as well as other turning points did.

For if we really have become a country were we scoff at those who put country first and their self interests second, we are in deep trouble.


  1. AnonymousJuly 03, 2008

    You are right on in a way. Do you agree that George W. Bush put himself before the country? How about Clinton? We have had 16 years of self interested Presidents robbing the country blind.

  2. You might be onto something there.

    In looking at the terms of the last four two-term presidents: Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and Bush 2, one can see their administrations all began to tank in their last two years.

    Perhaps Mexico, which only allows Presidents to serve one six-year term, had the right idea.

  3. Actually we need to repeal the 22nd Amendment Earl. If McCain announced such a pledge and won, the balance of power would immediately shift to Capitol Hill and Dingy Harry and Nasty Nancy would chuckle all the way to accelerating our lurch towards permanent liberalism.