Ex-Treasury secretary floats one-term presidency

Economist Larry Summers says a single, six-year presidential term could make the Oval Office more effective.

Summers, a former U.S. Treasury secretary who served as a top economics adviser to President Obama, noted that many second-term presidents have problems.

Two-term presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman and even Franklin Roosevelt all had difficult encores, Summers writes in an op-ed published in The Washington Post. 

Summers attributes these second-term slumps to various factors.

“Lame duck” presidents often lose influence, since they can no longer offer future rewards or threaten future punishments to get what they want, he writes. But that lost leverage, he concedes, would occur just as easily at the end of a single six-year term. 

Eliminating the possibility of a second term would also remove the “toxic combination of hubris and exhaustion after the extraordinary effort that a president and his team must exert to achieve reelection,” Summers writes. 

“Would the U.S. government function better if presidents were limited to one term, perhaps of six years?” he questions. “The unfortunate, bipartisan experience with second terms suggests the issue is worthy of debate.”

Summers said that the current administration, “rightly or wrongly,” is increasingly viewed as ineffectual.

“What was once a flood of extraordinarily talented people eager to go into government has shrunk to a trickle, and many crucial positions remain unfilled for months or even years,” Summers writes. “Bipartisan compromise seems inconceivable on profoundly important long-term challenges such as climate change, national security strategy and the need to strengthen entitlement programs in a fiscally responsible way.”