Posted: April 28, 2009 by April Watkins in Breaking News, Current Issues, Democrats, Israel, Our Government, Politics, Republicans, U.S. Congress, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate
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To Limit or Not to Limit?
United States Capitol

United States Capitol

The question of term limits has been a vacillating argument of pro and con by both major political parties as well as third party candidates.  Their answers seem to be in direct correlation to the party in control at the time.  However, the reality is that there are good and bad points to both sides of the issue, making a definitive answer much more difficult to determine.

Those opposed to limiting the term of Senators and Congressmen point to the importance of institutional knowledge.  It stands to reason that people with past legislative experience would understand the system of government (and its red tape) and should be better prepared to represent their constituencies with more effective governance.  The major advantage for long term members is the status of seniority among their peers, which brings with it a code of loyalty within the party.  Thus, when a senior member suggests legislation, it is more likely to be accepted by his/her junior peers.

Advocates of term limits stress the corruptive potential such power can bring. For example, senior Senators and Congressmen hold a tight leash on their juniors to ensure enough votes to pass their proposed legislation.  Party leaders often dangle the threat of little to no support and financial contributions during re-election time for a dissenting junior – a major deterrent for criticizing members of their own party.  A scarcity of criticism and whistle blowing attests to the compliance of junior members to ignore the unscrupulous actions of some senior party members.  This allows for exploitation of power and money by those who place personal gain over the will and best interests of their constituents. 

The Degrees of Corruption.

The government of the United States of America was created by men whom we consider Statesmen.  Through differences and arguments, they struggled to find functional compromises to form a government structure that would keep the best interest of the people first.  In today’s American politics, it is difficult to identify true statesmen as we so often hear of corruption and allegations of scandal and cover-ups.  The modus operandi of our Washington representatives appears to be a continual cycle of personal gain over public interest, which does little to show our children the value of honesty, integrity, and accountability.  To illustrate this point, let’s look at just the past week of news items.


One of the major stories this week was the revelation that Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee – did, indeed, attend national security briefings where the handling of enemy combatants by CIA interrogators was discussed in detail.  In statements made only a week before, Pelosi declared on live television, that she had not been aware of waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation methods used by the CIA and U.S. military just after the attacks of September 11, 2001.  Ironically, memos declassified by the Democratic Obama White House prove that Pelosi and other Democrats were involved in Intelligence meetings where she made no objections to the approved methods.  Pelosi’s follow up explanation of her earlier statement, or let’s face it – LIE, was a lame attempt at “clarification” stating that she didn’t know that [CIA] would actually “use” such tactics.


Budget watchdogs revealed that while criticizing Democrats for loading the federal budget with earmarks and special projects during a financial crisis, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has appropriated $819,000 for study of the catfish genome, and $800,000 for oyster rehabilitation! Two absolute financial necessities, no?


Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) has been identified in a transcript from an NSA wiretap on an Israeli agent discussing using her influence to lobby the Justice Department to drop espionage charges against two officers of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  In exchange the AIPAC would provide political pressure and intercession to lobby Speaker Pelosi on behalf of Rep. Harman to be named as the new chair of the Intelligence Committee.  Initial comments from Harman denied that she had been the subject of a federal investigation and claimed, since she spoke with so many people including Israelis, that she did not recall any such conversation.  Allegations that Speaker Pelosi, also a California Democrat, knew of the ongoing investigation but never informed Harman, led to a statement from the Speaker that she had no knowledge of being informed.  Later proof from the transcript put both Harman and Pelosi in embarrassing positions. The transcript ends with Harman saying “This conversation doesn’t exist.”  Apparently…it did.


How do we expect our citizens to respect authority when our leaders stand before America and blatantly lie?  Why would the average American want to pursue a political position in order to fulfill their civic duty if corruption is rampant?  How do we teach our children true values and honesty when they see politicians engage in scandalous behavior?  When are we going to demand accountability from our elected officials – Democratic and Republican – for their waste of our tax dollars?

These incidents bode well for the argument of term limits. Even though it seems a small step, term limits seem to be a rational start toward replacing a semblance of “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”  Next week, we will look at the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. and discuss how this institution of red-tape and civil servants are the “real” governing body.

And that…is Why It Matters.


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