I look forward to the print edition of the Capital Times every week, and the first thing I do is flip to Paul Fanlund’s column. I like his writing style, the topics he chooses, and frequently agree with his point of view. But I must take exception with his latest offering, titled “In politics, ‘experienced’ and ‘smart’ are now slurs.”
Oh, he’s right about that. Dummies like Sarah Palin and Shawn Hannity are powerful national figures. Gretchen Carlson of Fox and Friends is a Stanford graduate and Rhodes Scholar, but she’s apparently been coached to act like a dumb blonde. (No offense to blondes.)
Fanlund points out that Senator Feingold is a Harvard Law grad and a Rhodes Scholar, and opines that such credentials these days are treated like black marks. Agreed. The media give just as much weight to the opinion of that jackass “Joe the Plumber” as they do to our Junior Senator from Wisconsin.
Fanlund says it appears in this election cycle that lack of government experience and promises of simple solutions (to complex problems) are being rewarded. Again, agreed. But this is the point in his essay where Fanlund and I disagree. He says term limits are, for lack of a better word, bad. I say we need them.
Fanlund argues “the next time you have a wiring problem, avoid hiring a repairman who is a ‘career electrician.’ To me, that makes about as much sense (as term limits)”. Fanlund says we need smart and experienced leaders with the courage to enact the tough reforms we need. Again, agreed, but where I disagree is that “smart and experienced leaders” does NOT mean people who have spent the better part of their lives playing the political games in Washington DC.
Being an electrician requires a very specific set of skills and a lot of training. We literally trust these people with our lives. Same with doctors. Airline pilots. On and on. Being a Member of Congress, as far as I’m concerned, requires vision and courage. The actual law-writing and other critical “political” functions are actually carried out by staff members, who are career civil servants, and are, indeed, “smart and experienced” experts.
The President of the United States is subject to term limits. And, since this is America, if we don’t like our laws, we just change them, as we did to allow FDR a third term. Then we, as Americans, decided to go back to the two-term law after FDR.
One of the main reasons so much corruption has crept into our Congress is, in my opinion, the constant chase for campaign money – a problem that would become far less an issue with term limits. Career public servants, like Russ Feingold, say they effectively are subject to term limits, because they don’t appoint themselves but are “re-hired” by the people. As any political observer knows, that concept is true in theory only, given the incredible power of incumbency as demonstrated in every election cycle at every level of government from dog-catcher to United States Senator.
Fanlund needs to look no farther than our own state legislature to observe the corrupting power of incumbency. Spend a few moments on the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s website and you’ll be astonished at the facts about incumbency compiled there.
It’s said the Army is run by the Sergeants. Washington is run by the bureaucrats, only a handful of whom are actually “elected.” Term limits for U.S. Congress? Absolutely. And doubly the same for our state legislature.