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Echoing my desire for term limits

 
 
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 09:19 am
For the House GOP, A Belated Evolution
By George Will

WASHINGTON -- Before evolution produced creatures of our perfection, there was a 3-ton dinosaur, the stegosaurus, so neurologically sluggish that when its tail was injured, significant time elapsed before news of the trauma meandered up its long spine to its walnut-size brain. This primitive beast, not the dignified elephant, should be the symbol of House Republicans.

Yes, one should not taint all of them because of the behavior of most of them. Why, perhaps half a dozen of the 231 Republican representatives authored none of the transportation bill's 6,371 earmarks -- pork projects. And now among House Republicans there are Darwinian stirrings, prompted by concerns about survival.

In Washington, such concerns often are confused with and substitute for moral epiphanies. Tom DeLay will not return as leader of House Republicans, whose new fastidiousness is not yet so severe that they are impatient with Ohio Rep. Bob Ney's continuing chairmanship of the Committee on House Administration, in spite of services he rendered to Jack Abramoff. Ney has explained, by way of extenuation -- yes, extenuation -- that he did not know what he was doing.

Anyway, catalyzed by DeLay's decision to recede, House Republicans, perhaps emboldened by the examples of Afghanistan and Iraq, are going to risk elections. When they elect their leaders, they should consider the following:

The national pastime is no longer baseball, it is rent-seeking -- bending public power for private advantage. There are two reasons why rent-seeking has become so lurid, but those reasons for today's dystopian politics are reasons why most suggested cures seem utopian.

The first reason is big government -- the regulatory state. This year Washington will disperse $2.6 trillion, which is a small portion of Washington's economic consequences, considering the costs and benefits distributed by incessant fiddling with the tax code, and by government's regulatory fidgets.

Second, House Republicans, after 40 years in the minority, have, since 1994, wallowed in the pleasures of power. They have practiced DeLayism, or ``K Street conservatism.'' This involves exuberantly serving rent-seekers, who hire K Street lobbyists as helpers. For House Republicans the aim of the game is to build political support. But Republicans shed their conservatism in the process of securing their seats in the service, they say, of conservatism.

Liberals practice ``K Street liberalism'' with an easy conscience because they believe government should do as much as possible for as many interests as possible. But ``K Street conservatism'' compounds unseemliness with hypocrisy. Until the Bush administration, with its incontinent spending, unleashed an especially conscienceless Republican control of both political branches, conservatives pretended to believe in limited government. The last five years, during which the number of registered lobbyists more than doubled, have proved that, for some Republicans, conservative virtue was merely the absence of opportunity for vice.

The way to reduce rent-seeking is to reduce the government's role in the allocation of wealth and opportunity. People serious about reducing the role of money in politics should be serious about reducing the role of politics in distributing money. But those most eager to do the former -- liberals, generally -- are the least eager to do the latter.

A surgical reform would be congressional term limits, which would end careerism, thereby changing the incentives for entering politics and for becoming, when in office, an enabler of rent-seekers in exchange for their help in retaining office forever. The movement for limits -- a Madisonian reform to alter the dynamic of interestedness that inevitably animates politics -- was surging until four months after Republicans took control of the House. In May 1995 the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that congressional terms could not be limited by states' statutes. Hence a constitutional amendment is necessary. Hence Congress must initiate limits on itself. That will never happen.

Although bribery already is a crime and lobbying is constitutionally protected (the First Amendment right ``to petition the government for a redress of grievances'') a few institutional reforms milder than term limits might be useful. But none will be more than marginally important, absent the philosophical renewal of conservatism. To which end, who should Republicans elect?

Roy Blunt of Missouri, the man who was selected, not elected, to replace DeLay, is a champion of earmarks as a form of constituent service. If, as one member says, ``the problem is not just DeLay but 'DeLay, Inc.,''' Blunt is not the solution. So far -- the field may expand -- the choice for majority leader is between Blunt and John Boehner of Ohio. A salient fact: In 15 years in the House, Boehner has never put an earmark in an appropriations bill.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,639 • Replies: 23
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 09:40 am
Term limits is an excellent idea! I believe that no one should serve more than six consecutive years as a columnist for a major newspaper or magazine. It's about time George Will found some honest work.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 09:46 am
Well, hell. Let's apply that to every job.
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McGentrix
 
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Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 12:00 pm
So, judging from the sarcasm, you disagree with term-limits?
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woiyo
 
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Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 12:21 pm
For elected officials, absolutely.

However, I am not sure about the Judiciary Appointments.
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nimh
 
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Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 12:31 pm
Havent read the column (not much point reading RealClearPolitics columns), but term limits? Sure, think it's a great idea.
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FreeDuck
 
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Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 12:33 pm
Ditto.

Love the sig line.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 12:42 pm
Hee! Brand new, came up with it yesterday...
0 Replies
 
McGentrix
 
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Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 12:43 pm
nimh wrote:
Havent read the column (not much point reading RealClearPolitics columns), but term limits? Sure, think it's a great idea.


That's too bad.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 12:45 pm
That I agree with ya on the term limits?

Hey, you're just gonna have to bear it...
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 12:58 pm
(If it makes you feel any better, I try not to read political columns, period ... and least of all those from the usual suspects in either of the two camps that are always battling it out in any given country.

All they ever yield is the gratuitous satisfaction of that fleeting "YEH! See! Take that!" sensation among the respective faithful anyway; you hardly ever learn anything from 'em.

Columnists also dont have to bother with those pesky journalistic standards of referencing claims, getting the numbers right, and applying the right of response, so even if they do come up with something, you have to doublecheck in a regular news story whether it's actually true ... not worth the bother.

The only exceptions I make are one or two Dutch ones that I can always count on surprising me with some kind of unexpected, personal angle that rarely fits with any of the standard political POV's.. but I can really only think of two off the top of my head.

No pol-columns for me.)
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 01:18 pm
Members of congress already have term limits: they're commonly called "elections." Every two or six years, the electorate gets the chance to limit the terms of their elected officials.

Those who think that we need a term limit amendment for congressmen (analogous to the 22nd amendment that limits presidential terms) are admitting that the democratic system of elections no longer works. It's the political equivalent of the soccer shootout: an admission that the results we want are no longer achievable under the set of rules that we've been using all along. It's a cry for help from a feckless electorate, beseeching the government to "stop us before we vote again!"
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McGentrix
 
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Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 01:25 pm
No, incumbants have access to far more money that non-incumbants. They are also entrenched in the "game". Also, many districts will always vote for one party regardless of the candidate due to the philisophical nature of that district. Getting fresh ideas and people rotating through Washington would be a blessing.

Take Hillary for example. It doesn't matter whom I vote for in the election. She is going to win her senate seat back. But, my only option is to move if I don't wish to have her as my senator. With term limits, at least I know she won't be there forever and that would give me hope...
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 01:54 pm
McGentrix wrote:
No, incumbants have access to far more money that non-incumbants.

That's an argument in favor of public financing of elections, not for term limits.

McGentrix wrote:
They are also entrenched in the "game". Also, many districts will always vote for one party regardless of the candidate due to the philisophical nature of that district.

Yeah, democracy sucks, doesn't it?

McGentrix wrote:
Getting fresh ideas and people rotating through Washington would be a blessing.

Or it is quite possible that term limits will simply introduce more bad ideas and more rogues and scoundrels rotating through Washington. "New" doesn't necessarily mean "better" -- any genuine conservative will tell you that.

McGentrix wrote:
Take Hillary for example. It doesn't matter whom I vote for in the election. She is going to win her senate seat back. But, my only option is to move if I don't wish to have her as my senator. With term limits, at least I know she won't be there forever and that would give me hope...

I wasn't aware that the American electoral system was designed to give people hope. I thought it was designed to give them the representatives that they want to serve them in office. If you don't like the fact that your candidates are consistently defeated, then your beef is with representative democracy, not with term limits.
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McGentrix
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 02:04 pm
Well, I favor term limits, you don't. That's fine.

Do you favor the terms limits within the executive branch?
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 02:23 pm
Will is worth reading because, though a conservative, he's not predictable. He represents what many U.S. conservatives were like before the advent of the cultural conservatives currently running the show.

Re term limits: Weren't these part of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" about 10 years ago? A guy named Geoge Nethercutt (Rep.) defeated Tom Foley (Dem.) who was Speaker of the House at the time. Nethercutt benefited from the idea of term limits, which he supported. Well, guess what N decided to do once his predetermined number of terms had elapsed?
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 02:28 pm
I am 100% against term limits.
0 Replies
 
Greyfan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 05:33 pm
I think I would favor more restrictions on the value of lobbyists' "contributions", with stiffer penalties for transgressions, such as removal from office and loss of pension for the offending legislator, first.

Then, more logical congressional districts, in place of the gerrymandered abominations we have now.

And of course, all political parties should be abolished.

Problem solved....
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Jan, 2006 12:57 pm
McGentrix wrote:
Well, I favor term limits, you don't. That's fine.

Spoken like someone whose arguments have run out before his biases have.

McGentrix wrote:
Do you favor the terms limits within the executive branch?

No, certainly not. This nation should be living under the constant cloud of dread that George W. Bush will announce his candidacy for a third term.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Jan, 2006 01:42 pm
Damn, Joe, that's wicked cruel . . .
0 Replies
 
 

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