Term Limits: Congressional Whac-A-Mole

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Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) makes a few remarks prior to the unveiling of the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp by the Post Office in a dedication ceremony in the South Court Auditorium at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) in Washington, DC on May 22, 2014. Milk was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States. UPI/Pat Benic
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Personal Liberty Poll

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I’ve never been a fan of term limits. It’s not that I don’t think the career politician tends to be a parasite, permanently affixed to society’s rear end; it’s just that we’ve had term limits since the dawn of the republic. We just call them by a different name: elections.

Elections were the Founders’ idea of term limits. Of course, the Founders — men like the American Cincinnatus, George Washington — could never have conceived of the rise of the professional politician. Washington retired to Mount Vernon, despite multiple offers of a literal king’s ransom. Today’s career pols happily sell their souls for a chance to print “Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Green Jobs and the New Economy” on 30 years’ worth of business cards. Now, I’m not suggesting that the Founders’ lack of foresight requires a legislative fix — mostly because we’re the ones who broke the proverbial lamp. After all, if we fill Congress with full-time filth, we can’t very well blame them for the stink. As many of the sages have noted, “We get the government we deserve.”

But my views on term limits may be “evolving,” especially after I watched Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.) proffer apologies to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen after Koskinen returned from being frog-marched behind the woodshed by righteously enraged Congressmen during his recent appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee. Koskinen dug himself quite a hole during his testimony on the infamous “lost” emails detailing his agency’s targeting of conservative groups, telling the committee, “I don’t think an apology is owed.”

The Republicans on the committee whacked Koskinen on the snout — and with good reason. Koskinen didn’t just lie; he sneered like a Mafioso who knows which jurors have been bought off. This cretin certainly deserved a verbal smackdown for so casually spitting on the truth from behind what he thinks are Barack Obama’s protective skirts.

Yet Lewis apologized — to Koskinen, saying: “I want to apologize to you for the way you’ve been treated this morning.” He might as well have given him a nice shoulder massage. The man whose job ostensibly entails the oversight of all operations of an agency uniquely able to destroy people’s lives was yapping in circles with all the smugness of a Code Pink protester welcoming home a deserter, and a duly sworn member of the People’s House was worried that the mean ol’ Republicans might have hurt his widdle feelings.

Lewis spent the 1960s standing up to a government that considered blacks to be legally inferior and that was willing to get nasty to enforce its bigotry. Lewis has since spent 24 years on Capitol Hill. And now, Lewis has been reduced to a government stooge, fronting for “the man.” That’s more than tragic; that’s a cautionary tale — one of Obama’s “teachable moments” in big, neon letters. The death of the true citizen legislator is killing every aspect of citizens’ liberty.

While Lewis’ disgraceful performance might have served as an excellent reminder of the dangers of allowing politicians to take root in Washington like toxic mold, he’s far from the only bad seed. In fact, a glance at some of the other leeches swimming in the government pond reveals a dire diagnosis. Across the aisle from doddering dinosaurs like Lewis sits similarly slimy reptiles like Mark Sanford (R-S.C.). Following his Appalachian Trail misadventures, Sanford left the South Carolina Governor’s mansion in what should have been disgrace. And now, he’s the U.S. Representative from South Carolina’s 1st District. (It should be noted that the Democrats made no real effort to defeat him. Sanford’s Democratic opponent in the 2013 special election was a woman named Elizabeth Busch, who was notable only for being comedian Stephen Colbert’s sister.)

Term limits wouldn’t affect men like Lewis and Sanford, because term limits wouldn’t stop their electorates from behaving stupidly. Indeed, term limits would produce an ersatz game of Congressional Whac-a-Mole, with disgraced and/or disgraceful politicians serving as the eponymous rodents. That having been said, watching Lewis apologize to Koskinen has forced me to consider trading my opposition to term limits for something more useful — like a mallet.

–Ben Crystal

Personal Liberty

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.

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