Repealing the 22nd Amendment
Your editorial favoring repeal of the two-term limit on presidencies (“Removing the Two-Term Limit,” Dec. 3) recalled too vividly to my mind the remark popular in the 1920s that a dictatorship was really the best government if you had a “good” dictator, which generally also implied that Benito Mussolini, then in power in Italy, was a good dictator.
In our country a dictatorship as obvious as that is not our worry. However, what has happened to the presidency over the years, aided by modern mass communications, has made the power of an incumbent President as great as that of a dictator, something the framers of our Constitution worked very hard to prevent.
Such traditions as “executive privilege,” secrecy, the tendency of people to follow a person rather than a principle, the monopoly of public attention bestowed on the President, such common expressions as, “He is our President and he deserves our respect,” “Politics stops at the water’s edge” (implying that to oppose the President’s foreign policy is unpatriotic), and the huge advantage of the incumbent in raising campaign funds, all contribute to the perpetuation of a political machine that is increasingly unbeatable.
Although the unlimited reelection of a President chosen by the people in regular elections seems fair, it nevertheless may also conflict with the principle of checks and balances. Under that principle our final authority in settling disputes is not an elective body but an appointive one, the Supreme Court, appointed by the President and serving for life. Yet we have already seen how it can be restructured even by a two-term President through his appointive power to carry out his wishes long after he is gone. If he should be reelected for three, four or more terms, the public could come to accept him as a permanent fixture, even with the right to choose his successor, and to vote against him could be regarded as unpatriotic. Like people under a real dictatorship, we might have to hope that he is a good dictator and won’t live too long.
DON L. HEAD