Recent episodes involving two prominent U.S. senators have thrust me into a serious quandary.
I do not believe in term limits for members of Congress, but I do believe that those members should exercise proper judgment when it becomes apparent — if not obvious — that they are unable to fulfill all the complicated aspects of their job.
Perhaps you have seen the recent video of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell freezing, unable to answer a question about his re-election plans in 2026. It is the second such episode we have seen of the Kentucky senator in recent weeks.
Then we have Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California missing several months because she was battling shingles and assorted other ailments. She has returned to her post, but she clearly — according to observers — is nowhere near at the top of her game.
Feinstein 90 years of age; McConnell is 81.
You hear it said in recent times about the need for age limits for senators and House members. Not necessary, any more than slapping term limits on these individuals. Nor is it necessary for the presidency, which does have a two-term limit for anyone elected to that office. I remain somewhat conflicted about whether we need term limits for the presidency.
Over the course of history of our Congress and our presidency we have seen multiple examples of individuals who have stayed in office for far too long. Perhaps the most prominent among them is Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the senator who served as a Democrat, an independent and a Republican. At the end of his lengthy stint in office, Thurmond was hardly able to communicate, let alone speak cogently about public policy.
There comes a time when all of us should realize when we no longer have the snap required to do our jobs. When you are an elected official representing the interests of millions of other people, such self-awareness becomes even more critical. You must have all your faculties and must be in full command of your wits to make decisions based on (a) your own principles or (b) the will of those you represent.
It looks to me that Sens. McConnell and Feinstein — two of the Senate’s heaviest hitters — are no longer able to fulfill the obligations of their high offices.
Therein lies a stern — but essential — lesson for people in public life at all levels of government.