Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Feb. 24, 2021

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Press Talk: It could have all been avoided

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If we had done one thing — just this one thing — there would have been no storming of the Capitol. There would have been no close call ending our democracy. And Donald Trump would have just been viewed as an ineffective and incompetent one-term president, not some cult-leading madman, hell bent on maintaining power at any cost.

Just one thing. Read on.

• • •

In the land of orange sunsets and orange juice, Florida — unfortunately– now has the Great Orange One. Welcome, Donnie Two Scoops. Hey, if you’re worrying about him being lonely in Florida, relax.

Florida also has these Republicans: Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. I was cautioned to not call them The Three Stooges, because plenty of folks like the Stooges. So call ’em what you want, but don’t call them late to a right-wing crazy-town rally.

But I digress… a little. Because what I’m about to say now about those two Florida senators might startle you. Despite my misgivings I think Rubio and Scott are onto something. Something I like.

Something called term limits.

Now — as noted — I’m not a fan of Rubio and Scott. But the truth is, I don’t care who pushes a good idea. And I think term limits are a good idea.

Here’s Scott’s take on the issue when he was speaking to Fox News a few days ago:

“The president doesn’t have 30 years to get things done. (The president can only serve up to eight years.) Congress should be in the exact same position. We need new ideas. I mean, look where we are.”

Amen.

The proposal that Scott and Rubio signed onto would limit a senator to two six-year terms (12 years) and a U.S. representative to three two-year terms (six years.)

Now I get that there’s plenty of headwinds working against this idea.

First, the terms for members of Congress are spelled out in the Constitution. To change the rules you have to go through the daunting process of amending the Constitution. You might be more likely to get hit by lightning or getting the former room-temperature-I.Q. president to admit he’s lied a couple of times.

Second, and more important, you’re essentially asking political animals to get behind the idea they should vote themselves out of their jobs. Good luck with that. So, for the most part, you don’t see a lot of support from either party. Which is why — despite my disdain for Rubio and Scott — if I could pull them out of the rabbit hole they keep going down, I’d give them a big smooch!

Regardless of the odds, I feel it’s important enough to open up a discussion. So I had conversations with state Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, and U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground.

Wylie said when she became a legislator in Oregon she happened to be in the first class elected under term limits. (Unlike Congress, some state legislatures have term limits.) But she believes the longer legislators serve, the more effective they become.

“You don’t know what you’re doing for a number of years because it’s hard work and it’s complicated,” Wylie said.

Wylie also said there are no term limits on lobbyists and it’s possible, even likely, they could take advantage of less experienced legislators. So although Wylie is always open to a conversation and discussion on most topics, she’s not a big fan of term limits.

I also spoke with Herrera Beutler a few weeks ago. Our wide-ranging interview included a discussion about term limits.

“I like the idea behind term limits,” she said. “However, I haven’t seen term limits work very effectively. And California is the best example I could point to.”

In California’s State Assembly, Herrera Beutler said, the lobbyists act like a third branch of government and have more influence over newly elected members. If there were term limits in Congress, she feels lobbyists could have similar control.

• • •

OK, I get those concerns. And they are real. But I do have push back on them:

• It’s too complicated. Look, government is complicated because bureaucrats and elected officials make it complicated. Here’s a concept: Make it simple. And if that doesn’t work, study more. It ain’t rocket science.

• Lobbyists would have their way with rookies. Huh? What about elected officials who have been around for decades and not only become close friends with lobbyists, but are given stacks of cash as campaign contributions? If I had to pick, I’d take my chances with someone new.

So what does all of this mean? Life is built on a foundation of tradeoffs. Rarely is there a complex issue where it’s either all good or all bad. And that’s true with term limits. But in my view the good far outweighs the bad. Especially today.

Think about it. What is the one ace-in-the-hole Trump has carried with him both during his presidency and now? His threat of working against any Republican who isn’t willing to follow him into the abyss. There’s always an upcoming election. He was constantly reminding them of that. Once, when a story was written about Republicans who accepted Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential race before he thought it was appropriate, Trump asked for a list of names.

Now think about term limits, and how that would allow politicians to not worry about getting re-elected. Suddenly, the one threat a dictator-wannabe has over them vanishes. When you’re not worried about getting re-elected, you are free to do the right thing.

If senators today were on term limits, the vote to convict Trump on impeachment charges would be 80-20 in favor. Instead, Trump will get off once again.

If congressional members were all on term limits, Trump’s social media ramblings would have gathered little support from Republican officials and — frankly — would have been dismissed or condemned by them. With no political backing, the momentum from Trump’s followers would have been greatly diminished.

And … there would have never been a breaching of our Capitol or a threat to our democracy.

Term limits. Now more than ever.

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