There can be no doubt about this: Barack Obama’s critics went ballistic when the president said he could win a third term in the White House if he had the chance to seek it.
He reminded his hosts in Ethiopia today that the U.S. Constitution prohibits him from seeking another term. But then he said he’s been a “good president” and well might win in 2016.
Ah, yes. And he’d say anything about it if he thought he’d lose? Hardly.
The 22nd Amendment was enacted in 1947, spearheaded by a Republican congressional majority that was alarmed by the four elections won by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They feared an “imperial presidency.” An earlier Democrat, Grover Cleveland, sought the office over the course of three consecutive elections, but lost his bid for re-election to a second consecutive term in 1888; he would come back four years later and be elected to a second term.
I am not at all thrilled about the term-limits provision for presidents, although I understand that the stress of the office has persuaded almost all the men who’ve held the office to bow out after a second term.
Still, Barack Obama isn’t the only recent president to look wistfully at the possibility of a third term.
Republican President Ronald Reagan said as much as his second term came to an end in January 1989. Twelve years after that, Democratic President Bill Clinton also mused aloud over whether he could win a third term.
I don’t recall President George W. Bush ever broaching the subject in public, given that the economy was collapsing when he left office in January 2009.
Whatever the motive for bringing it up this time, President Obama well might have been talking way past his audience in Africa and sticking it in the ear of his foes back home.
I’m quite sure they heard him … loud and clear.