The Charlotte News
Tuesday November 5, 1940
Site Ed. Note: The other day, we heard President Clinton discussing the subject of whether we should repeal the Twenty-Second Amendment, passed in 1947 in the wake of the election in 1944 of Franklin Roosevelt to his fourth term of which of course he only served 82 days before his death. At the time of promulgating the amendment, the Congress stated simply the reason for it: ''By reason of the lack of a positive expression upon the subject of the tenure of the office of President, and by reason of a well-defined custom which has risen in the past that no President should have more than two terms in that office, much discussion has resulted upon this subject. Hence it is the purpose of this . . . [proposal] . . . to submit this question to the people so they, by and through the recognized processes, may express their views upon this question, and if they shall so elect, they may . . . thereby set at rest this problem.''
Of course, there was more to it than that at the time. There were pros and cons to having one administration for 16 years, extended essentially to 20 years by Truman's re-election in 1948. Much good was done for society and much continuity was managed at a time when arguably continuity was more necessary than at any other time in the country's history since its beginning and during and after the Civil War. But there were also howls from the other side of despotism and dictator hurled at Roosevelt, and that was true even by mid-way of his second term. By the end of Roosevelt's life, he had appointed fully eight Supreme Court Justices to seven seats. Truman appointed yet three more, including a Chief Justice. And arguably, we are still saddled with this legacy by the Republican Party's reaction to it which followed in the 1950's and since.
Since the first Republican president, Lincoln, Republicans have occupied the White House 88 of 144 years. And, as indicated, 20 of the 56 years in which Democrats have been president were the FDR-Truman years. That statistic becomes a little startling when it is realized that since the New Deal years, the majority of the country has been registered as Democrats.
President Clinton suggested ambivalence over the notion of repealing the amendment, indicating his favoring to some degree allowing a president to serve no more than two consecutive terms but allowing for the possibility of re-electing someone to a third term if non-consecutive. Besides Roosevelt, only one other time in our history has a president who served eight years sought re-election to another term, and his name was also Roosevelt. TR ran on the Bull Moose Party ticket in 1912, four years after leaving the presidency. And of course TR was only elected once to the office, having come to the office early in the second term of President McKinley after his assassination in 1901. (Have you ever realized that we almost had President Garret Hobart, McKinley's first vice-president?) TR finished a distant second in 1912 to Woodrow Wilson while the incumbent, William Howard Taft finished a distant third. (Taft, not to be consigned to the status of a loser, was subsequently appointed Chief Justice by Warren Harding.)
So, we don't know about that suggestion. Former presidents make for fine advisors to current presidents and offer a stabilizing force in our society when things go awry with the sitting president. Perhaps, that is the best role for former presidents to occupy after eight years in office.
We are after all a naturally suspicious people of anything which whiffs of a king or a regime--as we ought to be. We permit our Congressmen and Senators more usually than not long tenure to afford continuity. Our federal judiciary is appointed for lifetime. Perhaps, therefore, we need a check on ourselves at least every eight years on who we elect as president even if the majority of us might continue to re-elect the current person over and over. It provides us a fresh start and maintains a check against the accumulation of too much power in one person. It is a wise limit and one which we likely should maintain, even if sometimes we don't like it. There will be as many other times when we will.
We have had enough trouble in the last 44 years keeping a president for any longer than four years, after all, resembling the upheavals in our society after the Civil War as manifested in a series of unstable elections and presidencies and three assassinations in 36 years from 1865 to 1901. All three two-term presidents in the last 44 years have left office under clouds of scandal, one of course by resignation, though the other two remained popular at the end of their terms. So, we learn as we go along and it is best probably to adhere to the wisdom of the "Best Generation" which passed the 22nd Amendment in 1947. They, after all, saw more which threatened our democracy than fortunately we have, though some things, and some bitterly horrible things, we have certainly seen in the past 44 years.
Yet, we persist, sometimes, it seems, against all the odds.
Comes Four, and the Charge Will Pester the Third Termers
It remains to be seen, of course, whether what Mr. Willkie calls the "common law" against a third term--the law that stems from tradition and common practice rather than from official adoption--is upheld or rejected in this election. He promises, to be sure, that if he becomes President his first message will contain a recommendation for constitutional amendment to limit the tenure of the Chief Executive to not more than eight years.
Inasmuch as the only way in which he can be elected is by the upholding of the "common law" against a third term, Mr. Willkie's position, in that event, will have been sustained and the need for formal ratification considerably abated.
But what about President Roosevelt? It is as certain as certainty itself that if he is re-elected, his third term is going to be filled throughout with accusations of an ambition for a fourth term. After the stage play by which he shut off all opposition candidates within his party and manipulated matters to obtain the nomination for himself, no renunciation that he can make, however sincere at the time, will dispose of the charge that he is grooming himself for a fourth term.
It would be inconsistent of him, did he obtain the third term, immediately to set about writing a prohibition against it in the law of the land. And yet he could do no greater service to his third Administration than to waive any and all chance at a fourth... but more about that after this Tuesday.
Nothing Is Less Than Ten Cents by Our Arithmetic
If a man falls out with another over a 10-cent debt and shoots him full of holes, you can be sure that the alert newspaper men will right a head for it something like this:
MAN MURDERED OVER 10 CENTS
This is supposed to be a good newspaper treatment, and inasmuch as it is followed on this paper, we may take for granted that it is. And of course the smaller the sum concerned in a killing, the better story it makes. "Man Murdered Over One Cent"--that would be one to delight a city editor's heart.
Most of the murders in this town are committed over nothing. Not even two bits. A Negro man gets drunk or simply gets murderous, reaches in his pocket for the gun or knife that is always handy there, and cuts loose. Result: one more corpse and one more murder to go down in the statistics.
And so we are going to suggest to the boys who write the heads that when a murder story lacks the 10-cent angle or any angle that attaches deliberation to the deed, they simply blazon it, "Man Murdered Over Nothing." That might be a breach of standard newspaper practices but it would certainly call attention to the free and easiness of murder in this most murderous of U.S. cities.
President Will Do Well To Refuse To Touch This
The rumors that Adolf Hitler plans to offer Britain peace terms through the President of the United States continue. And there are apparently many Americans who look forward to the prospect hopefully.
Actually, if the offer is forthcoming it will simply be a device for which Hitler hopes to win the war which he is no longer cocksure of winning by force alone. The conditions, say the rumors, will be that the "the unconquered and undefeated" British Empire will be left intact in return for recognition of Germany's absolute mastery of the whole continent of Europe.
What Hitler himself plans is undoubtedly to get time to consolidate his hold on the continent and particularly on France and at the same time lay in sufficient quantities of war materials to make sure of being able to carry on a long war when he strikes England next--as he will strike it, if his plans work out.
And they probably will work out. There is always the possibility, of course, of a successful revolt springing up throughout the conquered lands. But it is a very small possibility. Revolt there will undoubtedly be. Indeed, there are signs that it has already appeared sporadically in Norway and France. But with his hands freed from the conflict with England, Hitler would probably be able to carry through his plans and crush the conquered peoples into utter subservience while getting ready to begin the war anew.
They Minimize the Draft's Effect on the Carolinas
Month by month, new records in enlistments have been set in the Carolinas Army Recruiting District. October was no exception. More than 1,000 men joined the army to set an all-time record for this number of enlistments in any single month.
Recruiting officials were pleased by the manner in which voluntary enlistments continued during October in spite of the draft registration. It was to have been expected that young men, knowing that soon they would be subject to conscription for a single year of military training, would await their turn rather than enlist in the Regular Army for three years.
But the young men of the Carolinas, it seems, prefer to volunteer rather than to be drafted into the service of the country. Their action at the same time is delaying conscription for those who are awaiting their turn to be drafted. North Carolina was assigned a gross quota in the allotment through June 30, 1941, of 49,424, but deductions of the men from this state in the National Guard and other branches of the military service left a net quota of 15,613.
South Carolina's gross quota of 25,804 was reduced to 5,957. And still they enlist. By the time the first call is made, it may be that almost no man from the Carolinas will be drafted.
An Obscure Man With A Remarkable Record
At Washington Friday died Thomas H. Garrison, aged 70.
In all probability you never heard of him. At the time of his death he was a comparatively obscure operator of a bonding company in the capital city. However, that is not to suggest he had once been prominent, only to be forgotten. His life was unpublicized throughout.
For 33 years he was sheriff and deputy sheriff of Prince George's County in Maryland. Such length of service is perhaps more than usual, but it is certainly not unprecedented and would not entitle him to special notice at his passing.
But one thing does entitle him to it: in all the 33 years of his service as a policeman, as he liked to boast, he never once had recourse to his gun in making an arrest.
In a country where it is hazardous to run from the cops, no matter how little you may have done, and where they dash up and down the highways emptying guns at tires of misdemeanants without regard to the safety of the public, such a record sets a man apart as quite as remarkable as he would have been had he possessed three heads and four legs.
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