Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2013/ 4 Kislev, 5774
Looking for a different sort of president
By Victor Davis Hanson
The second terms of the latest three presidents have not been successful.
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
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.
In contrast, our culture's heroes -- in literature, film and the military -- get things done precisely because they do not care all that much what happens to them as a result of their courageous decisions. In that regard,
Age may be also a factor. We are a youth-obsessed Camelot culture that puts far too much stock in good-looking candidates who act hip, jog or seem robust. Clinton was only 46 when he entered office, Obama just 47, and
In a time of increased longevity, perhaps we should reconsider the advantages that six decades of experience might offer.
The youthful 40-something
Can we also take a breather from the
When Obama finishes his term, we will have had 28 consecutive years of presidents with either an undergraduate or graduate degree from
Reagan slogged it out for years in the cutthroat worlds of
Finally, can our next president have done something for a while other than nonstop politicking? The press caricatured Ike's garbled speeches and Reagan's B-movie reruns. But at least they did not go uninterruptedly from one political office to the next until being elected president.
Youthful charisma, the
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Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. Comment by clicking here.
© 2013, TMS