Erick Erickson: Joining me from the fine and beautiful lovely city of Rome, where it’s always good, even when it rains it’s pretty in Rome, is Dr. John Cowan, ran for Congress, is a surgeon up there, a graduate of Johns Hopkins no less. And well, he’s calling to change my mind on term limits where… John, welcome to the show. And I think I’ve been changing over time. Our mutual friend Howie, been bombarding me on this issue for a while, and it’s not that he’s badgered me it’s just that I’m starting to realize the deck is so stacked against people getting elected to Congress in terms of money, in terms of ballot access and the like, that maybe we really do need term limits.
Dr. John Cowan: That’s right, Erick, thanks for having me this morning. And I think Howie wanted a neurosurgeon in charge of US term limits in Georgia so that we could physically change people’s minds if we needed to.
Erick Erickson: [laughter] No lobotomy for me.
Dr. John Cowan: There you go. Yeah, look, term limits are kind of those thing at New Year’s when everybody says they wanna lose weight, everybody’s like, “Yes, it’s my New Year’s resolution. This year, we’re gonna do term limits,” and it is something that is hugely popular, and then we get a few months into any legislative session and everybody forgets about it. And it really is one of the simple solutions to a major problem that we have in this country, and it’s just too much data out there, there’s too much gridlock in our current system, that we just cannot afford… We have to act on this, and we’ve got a great resolution in the Georgia House right now that is ready to be passed if we could just get it out of the rules committee for a vote. It’s already passed the Senate, I would guess our great Governor would sign it, we just need to get it to a floor-vote, and we can take one small step to forcing Congress to act.
Erick Erickson: Now, let me ask you a question here, ’cause it would require a Constitutional amendment. I think if you got it to the States they would absolutely do it, but I mean how do you get term limits passed through Congress? Do we have to do a convention? Do you think we can get them done?
Dr. John Cowan: You’re exactly right. In 1995, there was a Supreme Court case that basically said when states individually were trying to pass term limits they said, “No, we can’t have multiple different standards across each 50 state or US House or Senate or… We need an amendment.” And so since then, US Term Limits has been working on trying to pass a constitutional amendment using several methods. Obviously, Congress can propose an amendment or the state legislatures, if we get 34 of them to propose legislation in each of their houses, can call an amendment convention. And that’s something that has not really been done. And it scares the heck out of people, but it shouldn’t. It is a valid mechanism and a preferred mechanism according to many of our framers for amending the Constitution.
Erick Erickson: Well, I’ll tell you why I’m more and more aligned on your idea for term limits and where we are, it’s because every time I see a good member of Congress, the type of member of Congress you want to stay in Congress forever, they’re the ones who say, “I shouldn’t stay.” And it’s always the bad ones who wanna stay there for 50 years. And I’m just… I’m kinda tired of seeing the good guys limit themselves, because they know the longer they stay the more they’ll become a part of the problem, so they term-limit themselves out, and the problem stays. So, I guess we’re gonna have to try to force them to adhere to their standards. I kind of feel like though with tax reform, the FairTax, things like that, that I just… I’m not optimistic. Is there any reason to be optimistic that we could ever get something like this done?
Dr. John Cowan: Well, I think so. We’re at 19 states right now that have signed on to the single resolution, Georgia would be the 20th, and Georgia would be one of the larger states to sign on, it might be a linchpin for about eight others to sign on in the next year. And this is why it’s so crucial. A lot of states look to Georgia as to what… Will it draw a line in the sand, and we may see several other states come into align. We start getting close to 34, you can almost guarantee Congress will act on this and propose their own Amendment. And the one thing we need to educate people on, we’re not talking about “You serve one term or two terms and nope, never again”, or even lifetime bans, there are very intelligent arguments to be made for an eight-year consecutive term followed by maybe four years off, or a certain time. Time on/time off model that would allow talent to be there for some time, take a break and then maybe return later in life. And so, we’re not talking about real punitive term limits here that would brain drain Congress, and kind of…
Dr. John Cowan: I’d say we are in a brain drain right now, but those who worry about truly skilled legislators not having an opportunity to give their gift to the people, I just think those are unfounded fears in what will eventually come out of this amendment.
Erick Erickson: Okay. So, answer this for me, ’cause one of the criticisms I’ve heard, particularly when you look at California and some other states with term limiting, is that to a degree what happens is when you limit these individuals, this has always been one of my concerns as well, is that you empower essentially a bureaucracy of staffers with the institutional knowledge who essentially begin to become the shadow legislature steering things through and filling in the members who actually vote as they need to.
Dr. John Cowan: That’s right, and that is definitely one of the top arguments, I would call it an urban legend and scare tactic by those vested in trying to keep their jobs there. Our current bureaucracy is as bloated and as large as it has ever been, and we’ve never even had a whiff of term limits in the US Congress. And so I think it’s unfounded. If you look at the members who serve 15, 20, 30, 40 years, they are all basically being run by their staff currently. And you know, if you were to get in there, Erick, and say, “Look, I’m gonna serve for six years, then I’m out”, you’re gonna make darn sure that your opinion is heard, that people are not taking advantage of the people who you’re getting ready to go back and live with.
Dr. John Cowan: Yeah, I think it’s a pure cop-out for people to say bureaucrats will run it. I think bureaucrats would be scared if they have legislators up there who know they’ve got to return home to live and work in the districts that they’re representing, once they’re done. I think they would be held much more accountable. And if you look at some of the most courageous votes that have ever been taken in Congress, even as most recently as back in January to some extent, they’re all taken by people who say, “I’m not running again.” And there’s a reason for that, Erick. People are so worried every vote is gonna get used in the next election or next fundraiser that they literally lose the ability to do the common sense thing for the people.
Erick Erickson: Yeah, that is fair. Every major change we’ve gotten in Washington, every major piece of legislation has come out from, well, Bush administration changes to ObamaCare to more recent stuff, it’s always been by the people who are retiring and have no fear of the voters left to be able to do what they think they need to do. Now, I understand though there are some conservatives out there who would say, “Well, yeah, but it’s always for big government, it was with Bush, No Child Left Behind, with Obama it was ObamaCare, that this would just emboldened people to be more squishy when they go.” Now, I think I can answer this argument for you that, “Well just go elect conservatives as opposed to elect someone who grows in office and there’s less time to grow in office with a term limit”, and I suppose that would be the argument.
Dr. John Cowan: Well, the other argument is, is I think these people who have been in realize, “I can’t get anything done because of the system I’m in, so we might as well build a bigger government system to take care of this problem”, because legislators no longer legislate. For the most part, they use their position as a media platform to get re-elected or to get a cushy job after they’re out of office. And they really don’t wanna spend the time, the energy, and that rolling up the sleeves, more perfect union ethos to actually solve the difficult problems we’ve got in this country. And I think if you get people, you self-select certain people, if they know, “Look, I’m not going up there to make a career, I’m going up there to make an improvement. I’m going up there to make this a more perfect union”, you self-select, I think, people who are workhorses and not show horses. And that’s the problem, we’ve got too many show horses.
Erick Erickson: I’m so confused. You think members of Congress actually would prefer to be on MSNBC and Fox than actually legislate? It’s not like I’m hearing them… [chuckle]
Dr. John Cowan: You should cancel me now, Erick, I’m so sorry. Cancel me please.
Erick Erickson: The young guy from North Carolina who just said he was hiring, he wasn’t hiring Legislative Director, he was hiring a Media team.
Dr. John Cowan: Right, a comms team only. I guess when somebody has an issue with social security, disability, or their VA benefits and the constituent service office is closed because the Comms team is tweeting, that’s not gonna go over too well.
Erick Erickson: Yeah, fair. Alright, I gotta ask you the question before I let you go, ’cause I sure people wanna know, you lost a run-off, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who’s there now, lots of antagonism from some people towards her, what are you looking at at your political future? And of course, we gotta deal with the redistricting issue as well, how do you view the lay of the landscape for yourself?
Dr. John Cowan: Well, for myself, the lay of the landscape is to leave this world, this state, my city and my family better than when I found it. And however the Lord uses me to do that, right now he’s using me to pass this term limits thing, I’m gonna do it. And the best way people can help is to call speaker Ralston right now, 404-656-5020. That’s his office, and say, “Hey, Dr. Cowan, he’s a brain surgeon, he might know something about term limits and I think that sounds like a good idea. Let’s pass it.”
Erick Erickson: Well, hopefully, we can. I will do an action alert on this issue, I’ll get with you and get the resolution number so we can get it passed and generate… We haven’t used my action center that I pay for, haven’t used it at all this year. So this will be a good thing to do and Howie will stop emailing you and me. [chuckle]
Dr. John Cowan: And I’ll have to stop pretending being a Mets fan.
Erick Erickson: Yes, yes. Oh, no, that poor guy. Listen John, it’s good to talk to you about this issue. I am convinced of it, and I’m happy to help, I think it’s time to figure out a way to do this where these guys stop being TV pundits and start legislating.
Dr. John Cowan: We have a real pathway to do this if we can start in Georgia and pass HR39, right now.
Erick Erickson: Alright, we’ll work on it. John, thank you very much. You have a great day.
Dr. John Cowan: Thank you, Erick. God bless, thanks.
Erick Erickson: Take care.