Thomas E. Cronin’s Jan. 4 op-ed, “Eight years is enough for any president,” neglected the past 22 years of U.S. history. For better or worse, we simply are not electing presidents sufficiently qualified or experienced for the job.
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama had very thin résumés for the presidency. One can argue that Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush learned in office, but this came at great expense to the nation, surely in Mr. Bush’s case. The jury is still out on Mr. Obama. Almost certainly, future presidents will be as unready as the last three were.
Assuming presidents grow in office, and I would argue that Mr. Bush did, someone else soon takes over, and the process starts again. Given the demands of the 21st century, perhaps a third term is not a bad idea.
Harlan Ullman, Washington
The writer is a senior adviser at the Atlantic Council.
Advocates for repealing the 22nd Amendment to lessen the lame-duck quality of a president’s second term might consider changing term lengths rather than limits. Beyond the constitutional prescription and ingrained familiarity, what is the redeeming value of four-year terms?
An alternative exists: a six-year presidential first term and a second term of three years. Given that the public is comfortable granting four additional years to incumbent presidents — it has for nine of the last 13 presidents — six years is not a duration to be feared. And such a two-term president would serve only one year longer. To retain electoral synchronicity and create a three-year election cycle, House terms could shift to three years, freeing valuable time from campaigning and fundraising for representatives and their constituents. These changes would reduce reelected presidents’ lame-duck status from half of their presidency to one-third, and their second term would lack the often-debilitating midterm congressional elections.
Additionally, a president’s decision to pursue reelection would become optional rather than automatic. This is the fundamental problem with the four-year term: It is inadequate for accomplishing enough to satisfy most politicians, and it is arbitrary when it comes to the public’s evaluation of performance.
Rick LaRue, Silver Spring