Demonstrating a hubris like no U.S. President before him, Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought and was nominated for a third Presidential term on July 18, 1940. He, of course, would be elected for a third and fourth term, violating the custom or precedent established by George Washington of not serving more than two terms.
Roosevelt responded to criticism of his decision to violate established precedent by claiming he believed it was his duty to continue serving in order to guide the Nation through the growing crisis in Europe, where Adolf Hitler was expanding the Third Reich. Unfortunately, much evil has been done in the name of “duty.”
The differences in Washington and Roosevelt are stark. Washington, putting the Nation first, retired after two terms because he thought it best for the Nation and he feared being “charged… with concealed ambition” and the establishment of an imperial Presidency.
His farewell address was laced with admonitions to put America first, cherish public credit, use it as sparingly as possible and avoid “occasions of expense by cultivating peace.” He also warned to, “Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.”
Roosevelt put himself and his aims first. Not only had he opened the Federal spigot to institute his unConstitutional New Deal — accumulating unprecedented Federal debt in the process — but he took an aggressive posture against Japan, then ignored the threat of a Japanese attack; he lied to Congress about and broke the law with his arms sales to those involved in World War II; he allowed his foreign policy to be influenced by communists; and he sided with communist Russia — first covertly, then overtly — and ultimately condemned half of Europe to decades of communist tyranny.
Thankfully, the 22nd Amendment, which prohibits a person from being elected as President more than twice, was ratified as a result.