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Ronald Reagan And The 22nd Amendment

Unable to defeat FDR in his third-term bid, they changed the Constitution to get back at him, albeit posthumously. There were some who wanted a repeal of the 22nd Amendment to give Reagan a third term. hide caption

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In a Monday post, I dealt with a question about the effect on the presidency of the Twenty-Second Amendment, which limited presidents to two terms. I wrote that, in my opinion, the only incumbent truly affected by the constitutional amendment was Bill Clinton.

That brought this question from Mary Peterson of Spokane, Wash.:

I think you are off in your analysis. Ronald Reagan was very popular and he would have won a third term in 1988 if he were eligible to run.

Reagan, the nation's 40th president, was indeed very popular, but his polling numbers tailed off in the latter years of his administration. His average job approval rating in the Gallup Poll for 1987 was 48 percent, and in 1988, his last year in office, it was 53 percent. Better, of course, than his three immediate predecessors — Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon — but not exceptional numbers.

Yes, there was Iran-Contra, and that hurt his standing. But more to the point, he was 77 years old in 1988. And as much as Republicans loved Ronald Reagan — and they certainly did — I don't think he would have been up for a vigorous campaign at that age. And so I suspect that had he been eligible, he would have declined a third-term bid.

I'm going to send this off to my friend, the great Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, to get his take on it.

Meanwhile, as noted by the invaluable Web site, Brooks Jackson writes that Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) has already introduced a bill to repeal the 22nd Amendment.

Serrano introduced or cosponsored the same proposal in 1997 and 1999, when Democrat Bill Clinton was president, and again in 2001 just days before Republican George Bush was sworn in for his first term. He also introduced it in 2003, 2005 and 2007, all before Barack Obama even announced he was running for president.

All of these bills died in committee without ever coming to a vote. None of Serrano's bills attracted any cosponsors, except for the 1997 and 1999 versions, each of which was cosponsored by Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, a Republican.

Jackson adds, "There's no evidence that Obama is pushing for repeal and little sign of partisan motivation for Serrano's bill. Furthermore, repeal proposals show no more signs of life now than they have over the past decade."