California: Leading the (Wrong) Way

By Bill Maher

In California, we passed a "term limits" bill in 1990. The idea was that people, once elected, get too entrenched and become a part of the "system" whatever that is, and that the Founders never envisioned a professional politician who stays in office 30 years. So, to avoid this, we capped the amount of time state legislators can serve. Nice idea. In theory.

But here's a fun fact: 60% of the politicians who are "termed out" run for another office. It doesn't even matter if it's a lower profile job, like city council or small town mayor. They just have to do it. This is who they are.

And a good number of the remaining 40% become lobbyists and never leave Sacramento.

I mention this because Arlen Specter died recently. And who didn't like Arlen Specter? (Other than lots of voters in Pennsylvania.)

But Arlen was one of these people, like Joe Lieberman, and Mitt Romney, who absolutely needed to be in public office. When the Republican voters said to Arlen Specter, "Actually, no you don't," Arlen switched parties and became a Democrat. Which is how he started. Before he became a Republican. For 44 years. Because the party wasn't important. Being in office is what's important.

This is one of the reasons Mitt Romney creeps me out. According to people who know him, he's been running for president for decades. He's always wanted to be president. And his entire political career has been conducted with that goal in mind.

Now, to be sure, Obama is also an extremely ambitious man. But watching that first debate you thought, "Well, he's not that ambitious." It seemed like he'd love to be president for another four years, but if he wasn't? "Eh, no big deal. I'll go back to Hawaii and hang out with my old friends from the Choom Gang."  

Such naked ambition, the kind that allows you to become the type of person who will take both sides of every issue in order to pander to every voter possible and maximize your Q rating, is a bit frightening. Because then it's not about the job. It's not about the people you're representing. It's really about you.