Tuesday, February 17, 2009

President for Life?

News sources in Caracas reported on President’s Day that Hugo Chávez won a referendum allowing the socialist leader to continue running for president of Venezuela indefinitely. He immediately announced plans to run for another six year term in 2013.

”The gates to the future have been opened wide,” said an emotional Mr Chávez from the balcony of the presidential palace, as a throng of ecstatic followers chanted in unison, ”Hey, ho, Chávez won’t go”.

Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that the prospect of Chávez–or anyone–as ruler for life is a scarey proposition.

What perfect reason to celebrate George Washington’s birthday this coming Sunday. After defeating the mightiest empire on earth, when he might have seized the reins of power permanently, General Washington retired to private life as a Virginia planter.

And after being elected to two four-year terms as President, the national hero voluntarily stepped down to transfer the office to his duly elected successor, establishing a precedent for presidential term limits that would remain in place till the time of Franklin Roosevelt and eventually be codified in 1947 in the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

What a touching patriotic spectacle to see George Bush last month, climbing aboard a Marine helicopter to head back to Texas as Barack Obama moved gracefully to occupy the White House. Americans have been transferring power peacefully and democratically for over two centuries, a tradition that dates back to the father of our country.

It’s a lasting lesson for Hugo Chávez and the rest of the world, and a reason to celebrate George Washington on the 277th anniversary of his birth.

5 comments:

Jason_Pappas said...

Hail Cincinnatus! There’s an interesting quote by Patrick Henry expressing admiration for how Washington relinquished power. Look back at Washington’s power during the war he wrote:

“In making a dictator we followed the example of the most glorious, magnanimous, and skillful nations. In great danger, this power has been given. Rome has furnished us with an illustrious example. America found a person for that trust: she looked to Virginia for him. We gave a dictatorial power to hands that used it gloriously, and which were rendered more glorious by surrendering it up.”

From “Patrick Henry” by Moses Coit Tyler, page 229, 1888?

Washington came out of retirement for the constitutional convention and subsequently assumed the Presidency of a “more perfect union” only to retire again, as you note, RS. However, if I remember correctly, Hamilton wanted the Presidency, Senate, and Supreme Court to have life terms. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. In any case, it was only in the judicial branch that we have the curious case of office-for-life. Hamilton: anti-democratic reactionary or prudent constitutional republican?

Pinky said...

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Of course. An interesting comparison.
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I don't know if it makes a lot of sense to see the Venezuelan situation as though it were similar to the United States either now or in the past.
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The economic institutions have come to rival political institutions in such a way that two completely different worlds are presented to the world.
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We seem to be in a time during which the two are coming into violent confrontation with each other. The big story appears to be that government has no business with business.
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Brian Tubbs said...

Chavez is a brutal thug. I feel sorry for the people of Venezuela. We in the United States indeed have much to celebrate in the heroic character of the Father of our Country. If only Venezuela had a George Washington today.

Pinky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pinky said...

Perhaps you are correct, Brian.
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But, I think you're having a problem viewing the world through other eyes--maybe not.
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I wonder how the Native Americans felt about the Great White Father, George Washington.
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And, I wonder how the natives of Venezuela feel about Chavez.
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I don't know much about the history of government in Venezuela. Maybe someone here has a grasp on that weighty subject?
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Apparently the international oil capitalists haven't been overly concerned about the welfare of the Venezuelan natives.
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I just do not believe we can compare the plight of the Venezuelan natives with the success of the Europeans that came and took the North American continent away from the American Natives. At least not from the viewpoint of the Europeans.
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Check it out.