Nick Tomboulides: Hi, I’m Nick Tomboulides. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the term limits movement for the week of December 30th, 2019.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Nick Tomboulides: Hope you got lots of great gifts from the jolly old man who delivers free stuff, Bernie Sanders. Kidding aside, the real Santa has been in office for 1,300 years. Sounds like we might need some term limits up at the North Pole. Due to our team’s family obligations, we’re giving you a throwback podcast this week, some of the best hits and misses of No Uncertain Terms along with a piece of new content. An interview I did recently with the Renaissance man, Jim Woods, host of Way of the Renaissance Man podcast. We cover a few really interesting topics and I think you’ll enjoy it. No Uncertain Terms will return to its usual format on January 6th, 2020. Thank you so much for being a listener.
Speaker 3: We would like to apologize for the way in which politicians are represented in this program. It was never our intention to imply that politicians are weak, needs political time service who are concerned more with their personal vendettas and private power struggles than the problems of government, nor to suggest at any point that they sacrifice their credibility by denying free debate on vital matters in the mistaken impression that party unity comes before the well-being of the people they supposedly represent, nor to imply at any stage that they are squabbling, middle toadies without an ounce of concern for the vital social problems of today, nor indeed do we intend the viewer should consider them as crabby all stars, little self seeking vermin with furry legs and an excessive addiction to alcohol and certain explicit sexual practices, which some people might find offensive. We are sorry if this impression has come across.
Phil Blumel: I think welfare recipients should be drug tested. Before they can run for reelection.
Phil Blumel: Did you know that members of Congress get prescription drugs hand delivered to their offices? Yeah, it’s done by Grubb’s Pharmacy, which is the oldest in Washington. It’s a cool perk that nobody else in America has and that’s pretty much par for the course in Washington, but there’s a lot more to that story and it should alarm every American. Mike Kim, the owner of Grubb’s Pharmacy told STAT News that he is routinely filling prescriptions for drugs that treat Alzheimer’s disease for members of Congress.
Speaker 5: We just talk to our shrinks. They talk down the street. We ripped the wall.
Phil Blumel: If pharmacists are shipping Alzheimer’s medication to Capitol Hill, then some number of congressmen are medically unqualified to hold office and we don’t know which ones or how many. They could be back-benchers or they could be sitting at the upper tiers of leadership making decisions of global significance. Since your rank in Congress is based mostly on seniority, the oldest members have the most power. That’s terrifying. Here’s what Mike Kim, the pharmacist said, “At first it’s cool and then you realize, wow, I’m filling some drugs that are for some pretty serious health problems and these are the people that are running the country.”
Phil Blumel: (music)
Phil Blumel: There are 44 congressional districts in which the age of the representative is more than double the median age of his or her constituents. On the Senate side, 18 of the 33 senators running for reelection in 2018 will be 65 or older. Several of them, including Diane Feinstein and Bill Nelson will be well into their 80s by the time they spend another six years in office. Obviously, these trends don’t necessarily mean Congress has a problem. Many people experience little to no loss and mental sharpness as they age, but there have been enough red flags lately to merit some concern. Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran recently had to step down from the Senate, but before that Politico had documented that Cochran appeared frail and at times disoriented during their interview with him. Cochran at one point needed a staffer to remind him where the Senate chamber is located despite having served in that chamber for the last 40 years.
Phil Blumel: After locating the chamber, Cochran cast the wrong vote on a bill and had to correct himself after an aide pointed out the error. New research suggests that the relationship between power and mental decline could be even worse than scientists had imagined. Not only are people with brain damage finding their way into powerful posts, but the evidence shows that power might also cause brain damage. Subjects under the influence of power, according to Dacher Keltner, a University of California Berkeley professor, acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury becoming more impulsive, less risk averse, and crucially less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view. That means power is literally going to people’s heads and damaging their brains. Perhaps that’s why 33 states have mandatory retirement ages for judges and 36 states impose term limits on their governors. It’s not realistic to expect unwell politicians to come clean with the public and step down, nor will their coworkers who depend on those members for support feel inclined to go out in public and say their friends are sick.
Phil Blumel: A better solution is changing the basic rules of the game to ensure members are not likely to lose their marbles on the job, and if it happens to ensure the problem cannot continue for decades. The only way to accomplish that is through congressional term limits. President Harry Truman in the aftermath of World War II sent a handwritten note to Congress demanding the passage of term limits. “We’d help to cure seniority and senility, both terrible legislative diseases,” Truman wrote. “The appropriations committees of the House and Senate are aged and decrepit men who if they think at all have backward thinking.” Truman’s words are a prophetic description of today’s Congress where the recent chairman of the Senate appropriations committee briefly forgot that he was even on the committee at all. That chairman was Thad Cochran.
Phil Blumel: (music)
Speaker 6: Get a bunch of politicians together and they’ll disagree on almost everything. Yet the one thing they’ll all agree on is the desire to keep their jobs. Yet there’s one man who has dedicated himself to making the profession of politics a part-time advocation. His name is Nick Tomboulides and he’s the Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits, a Washington based group that advocates for term limits at all levels of government.
Speaker 7: Tell me about your organization U.S. Term Limits.
Nick Tomboulides: So in a room of politicians, U.S. Term Limits is the least popular organization because what we want to do is throw the bums out. What we’re working on is term limits at every level of government, from Congress all the way down to dog catcher. You know, we just think when you leave politicians in power for too long, they tend to abuse that power. They try to siphon as much wealth and clout and influence out of that job as they possibly can and they forget about their constituents. They forget about serving the voters. They certainly forget about solving problems. God knows we haven’t had a single major problem solved by Congress in the last 30 years. So we think with, if you do term limits on Congress, you would not only humble these elected officials, but you would give control of government back to the people. Americans feel like we’ve lost control of this government. We feel frustrated, we feel like they don’t listen to us anymore. This is the biggest step in the right direction to making Congress listen again.
Speaker 7: There’s been a couple of different movements over the years to get the state legislatures more directly involved in helping the federal policy. You know, there’s a convention of the states, things like that. And I always found that interesting because most people just think, “Oh well we just got to get a new president that’s going to change things. Oh, we got to get a new,” you know, and guess what?
Nick Tomboulides: That’s how I used to believe.
Speaker 7: Me too. I mean, but the results speak for themselves. You get eight years on one party, eight years on another eight years of another and nothing really gets altered.
Nick Tomboulides: It’s like a big game in Washington DC, it’s like a football game. Sometimes the possession changes, the other team has the ball this time Republicans or Democrats, but it’s still the same damn crooked game. And when you talk about the President or members of Congress, that’s how I believed when I first started out. I thought if only we elect a better captain, he’s going to steer the ship in the right direction. I tried it over and over again. I worked on different campaigns and what I realized was it’s not the captain, it’s the ship itself. You’ve got a hole in your ship and you got to fix the system itself before anything his going to function properly. It doesn’t matter who you elect.
Speaker 7: Yeah, that’s a good point because I think the personnel is less relevant than the structure. The structure seems to be the thing that is in need of serious reformation.
Nick Tomboulides: Right. And you go back, you read like the founding documents of this country. I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said, “The Constitution is supposed to be the shackles that bind down the ambition of man.”
Speaker 7: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: He wasn’t saying that the Constitution is supposed to inhibit your freedom or my freedom. He meant it’s shackles on governments. You look at the Bill of Rights, that’s a restriction on government, not on the people. Term limits is a restriction on government. It’s a restriction on power. It’s a restriction on arrogance. It’s a restriction on empire building so that these elected officials can’t become more important than the office that they were elected to serve.
Speaker 7: Exactly. When people think about government, they don’t argue for the freedom of the citizen. They do, but the kind of prevailing sentiment in the Constitution is here’s a restriction on what government can do.
Nick Tomboulides: Exactly.
Speaker 7: As opposed to, oh, here’s the liberties we are enumerating. The liberties are there already. We want to keep the government from infringing upon them.
Phil Blumel: Welcome to caught in the crossfire. Today we feature a debate at the highest level of the U.S. government. The 44th and 45th the U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump go head to head on the issue of term limits, Ken.
Ken: That’s right, Phil. Never has America been so divided as it is today. And I quake to think what we’re about to witness here.
Phil Blumel: The opening salvo was launched at a rally by then candidate, Donald Trump in October 2016 just before the election. Let’s hear it.
Donald Trump: But there’s another major announcement I’m going to make today as part of our pledge, to drain the swamp. If I’m elected President, I will push for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress. They’ve been talking about that for years. Decades of failure in Washington and decades of special interest dealing must and will come to an end.
Phil Blumel: Then just days later, sitting president Barack Obama fired back not mincing any words.
Barack Obama: I think we want to see new voices and new ideas emerge. That’s part of the reason why term limits are a really useful thing.
Ken: Holy moly.
Phil Blumel: But it wasn’t done. From the dais at the Global Citizen Forum in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in June 2017, Barack Obama again tackled Trump’s stirring call with a more thorough rejoinder.
Barack Obama: I think politics suffers when you have the same people staying in power over and over and over again for many years and there’s never any new blood and there’s never any new ideas. And I do believe that if you’re in power for too long, even with the best of intentions, that you become stale and your government becomes stale and over time you will not do what’s best for the country and the country will suffer. And so I see sometimes in the U.S. Congress, people who’ve been there for 20, 30, 40 years and because they’re still there, they’re blocking the 25 or the 30 or the 35 year old who is more of their time and could be more innovative and creative in terms of solving the problems that we face today rather than the problems that we faced 35 years ago.
Ken: Wow. That was really something. Can America ever heal from the vast rifts that divide us?
Phil Blumel: Ken, they actually agreed about term limits here. The former Democratic president and current Republican one probably don’t agree on too much, but-
Ken: Oh, fail. The media landscape is awash with fear and loathing. The parties have never been further apart. Pets are turning on their owners. The sky is falling, [inaudible 00:13:37] the slap. You think anything could bring this country back together?
Phil Blumel: Well, a McLaughlin Poll from earlier this year suggested 82% of Americans support term limits.
Phil Blumel: Yeah, that’s right. 82%. 89% of Republicans, 76% of Democrats, 83% of Independents. It looks like term limits are one issue that Americans agree on. Perhaps this is the issue our political culture needs so we can start working together again.
Ken: I don’t know. You think the Russians might be behind this?
Nick Tomboulides: I was a political activist from the time I was in high school and there were all kinds of issues that I cared about, fixing the national debt for example, because I didn’t believe that people should be in debt slavery when they’re born in this country.
Speaker 7: Which they are.
Nick Tomboulides: And I also thought it was really unfair that major corporations, stuff like that were getting handouts from the government, meanwhile we had roads that were crumbling. We had people who are just barely struggling to pay their bills. And so I got involved in all these issues, but once I started talking to the politicians, I realize these politicians don’t care about the issues. They only care about getting reelected. That’s their number one duty is to just keep themselves in power, toe the party line and become somebody. Maybe one day, 20, 30 years in the future, you get an airport or a bus station or something named after you.
Nick Tomboulides: You get a legacy as someone who is really good at spending other people’s money. And that frustrated me. I wanted to see actual problems getting solved. And so I pivoted into term limits because I wanted to see something that would restore political courage. I wanted to see something that would get people with guts to run for office and do gutsy things that might not be popular at the time, but would be better for our country, better for our Republic, would actually start moving us down the road toward liberty down the road toward, like you mentioned, restoring our natural rights.
Speaker 7: But it’s interesting whenever any Congressman or Senator actually speaks their mind, you know they’re just about to be out of office, that they’re not going to get reelected and they’re not running again. So guess what they can do? They can criticize the President, they can criticize other people in their party and they’re willing to do that because they got nothing else to lose.
Nick Tomboulides: And the reason why is because the system is controlled so much by seniority, right? When you get to Washington, let’s say you manage to beat the 98% incumbent reelection rate, you beat the odds, right? You’re like the black swan and you finally made it. You get to Washington DC the first thing that happens is Nancy Pelosi sits you down and gives you the talk. She says, “Hey-
Speaker 7: “Here’s how it’s done, kid.”
Nick Tomboulides: “Here’s how it works. You better not think for yourself. You better not ruffle any feathers. You better not vote against leadership or you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to retaliate against you. We’re going to kick you off your committees. We’re going to make sure you can’t get anything done and your constituents are going to hate you and we might even find someone to run against you if you try to mess up this racket that we’ve got going here.”
Speaker 7: It’s a protection scheme.
Nick Tomboulides: Protection scheme, it’s just like what the mafia does, so they’ll stay for maybe 10, 12 years. They’ll play that game. And by the time you’ve been there that long, you lose sight of what inspired you to run for office in the first place. You lose the passion, the system breaks your spirit and you become just another cog in the machine. So one of my big priorities with term limits is not just to make elections more competitive, not just give people more faith in Congress, but dismantle the damn seniority system because it’s ruining our country.
Speaker 7: Now, there’s one argument that is somewhat powerful to me, and tell me if you think this has got any weight. The idea that the citizens should be able to vote for whoever the citizen wants to vote for, and then it should keep, if they’ve love this guy or this woman, their Congressman, Congresswoman in office, you should be out. You should have the freedom to be able to elect them. But there’s problems with that criticism. So tell me how you address that.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. So I’ll give you a little bit of an example from my own personal life. When I moved to Florida for the first time, I registered to vote. They sent me a ballot in the mail and there was a state representative election. It was missing from my ballot. And I called the local county elections office and I said, “Why is this missing from my ballot? Isn’t there an election every two years for this district?” They said, “Oh, that race has actually been canceled because nobody was willing to run against the incumbent.” So the incumbent got reelected automatically. He had all the money. There was no choice for the voters. There was no opportunity to change the system. It was totally rigged. And what I also learned was before we got term limits, over half of all the elections in Florida were canceled-
Speaker 7: Or just like that.
Nick Tomboulides: Every two years-
Speaker 7: No one wanted to take a shot of the incumbent.
Nick Tomboulides: No choice at all. And you look at the congressional level, it’s not much different. You know, 90% of the elections are either canceled or it’s an incumbent who’s running under contested, meaning you’ve got like a gadfly who puts his name on the ballot. He opens a bank account with 500 bucks. He’s not really serious. The incumbent coasts back into office.
Speaker 7: It’s not any kind of a serious-
Nick Tomboulides: There’s no competition. There’s no meaningful elections. For the vast majority of Americans, you have no functional choice at the ballot box. This is the thing term limits would address because it would create open seat elections every six years and when the elections open, you know it’s going to be competitive because the barriers to entry to run are much, much lower.
Speaker 3: Thanks for listening to this special holiday season episode of the No Uncertain Terms podcast. We hope you enjoyed hearing some of the more comical segments from our podcast archives. As we roll into the year 2020, we will be applying more pressure on Congressmen and women across the country and will not stop until we have achieved our goal, term limits on all members of Congress. We are a nonpartisan nonprofit activist group funded by you and your donations. For more information, just go to termlimits.com, sign the petition, and subscribe to the No Uncertain Terms podcast. Remember, it’s not a question of when, the term limits revolution is happening and it always wins at the ballot box. Both Republican and Democrat voters want to see it happen. Do you? Then keep listening, friends, and we’ll be back next week.
Speaker 11: USTL.
Speaker 12: Thank you for calling the NORAD Santa hotline. Radars indicate Santa has launched up from the North Pole. A NORAD Santa tracker will be with you in a moment.
Paul: NORAD track Santa, this Paul.
Donald Trump: This is the President of the United States. How are you doing, Paul?
Paul: Good. How are you?
Donald Trump: Paul, I’m doing fantastic. I’m doing tremendous. I’m doing great. I’m calling because I’m looking to find the whereabouts of the jolly old man who delivers the free stuff, Bernie Sanders.
Paul: Well, if it’s a jolly old man, he’s in Pensacola, Florida right now.
Donald Trump: He’s at Pensacola. Do you know when he’s going to be making his way down to Mar a Lago to deliver the bricks for my wall?
Paul: That should be in about two or three hours.
Donald Trump: Two or three hours. Well, I will be waiting patiently. I will be putting out the Trump steaks for the big guy. I know he loves that. I have a few more requests for you as well.
Donald Trump: Is Santa willing to deliver some coal to Joe Biden and a subpoena?