Fast and Furious. Benghazi coverup. Historically-low approval ratings. 6 wars since becoming POTUS. Godless, social agenda. Catering to white liberals on everything. Blacks faring better under Bush than Obama. Rollout for Obamacare an utter fail...the list goes on. But if you're a rabid Obamabot, surely it's a "RACIST!!!" GOP and that nonsensical 22nd Amendment that's holding Barry O. back from being the best POTUS he could be:
Last week Frank J. Fleming, one of the funniest bloggers around, tweeted: "At this point in the Obama presidency, we were supposed to be talking about how we needed to repeal the 22nd Amendment," which limits presidents to two terms.We laughed and gave Fleming a retweet. On Wednesday we observed that it's hard for a political humorist to keep up with the real-life absurdities of the Obama crowd. To illustrate the point, along comes Jonathan Zimmerman, a historian at New York University, with an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that we need to repeal the 22nd Amendment.Now of course the way this was supposed to work was that Obama would be such an amazing president that he would come to seem indispensable. There were people who felt that way about Reagan and Clinton in their last years in office. Probably someone somewhere would still stake that claim on Obama's behalf, but we doubt even Slate would publish such a far-fetched argument, never mind the Washington Post.So Zimmerman doesn't argue that Obama deserves a third term to continue his great success, only that "Barack Obama should be allowed to stand for re election [again]" and that "citizens should be allowed to vote for--or against--him." Where it gets funny is in Zimmerman's resort to the 22nd Amendment as an excuse for the failures of Obama's first and second terms.Zimmerman opens with a 1947 quote from Sen. Harley Kilgore, a West Virginia Democrat, who "condemned [the] proposed constitutional amendment" on the ground that, in Kilgore's words: "The executive's effectiveness will be seriously impaired, as no one will obey and respect him if he knows that the executive cannot run again." (We're pretty sure Zimmerman has the chronology backward here: Kilgore's quote preceded the proposing of the amendment and was part of the debate over whether Congress would do so.)There's no denying Obama's effectiveness has been seriously impaired. As Zimmerman notes, the president's approval rates have plunged--to 37% in one poll--and amid the ObamaCare disaster, "many of Obama's fellow Democrats have distanced themselves from the reform and from the president." The administration's purported recent deal with Iran, likewise, is drawing "fervent objections" not just from hawkish Republicans but from Northeastern Democrats like Sens. Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez.If Obama were running for re-election, Zimmerman thinks that wouldn't happen: "Democratic lawmakers would worry about provoking the wrath of a president who could be reelected. Thanks to term limits, though, they've got little to fear." But "the scariest problem of all," Zimmerman claims, is that Obama does not "have to fear the voters," so that "if he chooses, he could simply ignore their will."Right off the bat it seems obvious that Zimmerman has committed a fallacy of causality. We puzzled over whether to call it post hoc or cum hoc before realizing it's a rare example of an ante hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Zimmerman is asserting without evidence that events in the present are being caused by an event in the future, namely Obama's leaving office for good on Jan. 20, 2017.Why is this fallacious? For one reason, because it does not describe the behavior of all two-term presidents since the 22nd Amendment went into effect. Only Nixon and George W. Bush are generally regarded to have had disastrous second terms. Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton all had some difficulties in their second terms, but none that proved crippling to their effectiveness or poisonous to their public standing.There have also been disastrous one-term presidents--Carter for sure, and we'd also count Lyndon B. Johnson. Because LBJ took office with less than half of President Kennedy's term left, he was eligible to seek a full second term in 1968. He withdrew in the face of a surprisingly strong primary challenge from the antiwar left. In terms of his ability to influence Congress, LBJ arguably had been the most effective president of the 20th century, at least during his 1964-65 heyday. By 1968 he was washed up.The proximate cause of Obama's current decline in esteem and authority is the failure of a project he undertook during his first term--ObamaCare. That he has in common with Nixon (the Watergate burglary and coverup) and George W. Bush (the Iraq war). Given that all three of these presidents sought and won a second term, it seems far-fetched to speculate that the prospect of a third term would have led to substantially better decision making in the first term.As for Zimmerman's fear that Obama may ignore the will of the voters, all we can say is he must've been out of the country in 2010 when ObamaCare was passed. It is preposterous to suggest that so willful a president would be more responsive if only he had the legal possibility of being president for life. Further, it is difficult to deny that the requirements of re-election in 2012 were behind the administration's abuse of the Internal Revenue Service, the Benghazi coverup, and the fraudulent claim that "if you like your plan you can keep it." Does anyone think the prospect of a third Nixon term in 1976 would have averted Watergate?
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