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White House Notebook: Third Term? Obama Says No Thanks

obCould President Barack Obama win a third term in office? He’s convinced that he could, but would really rather not.

Obama used his own history of electoral success to rib African leaders who overstay their welcomes by refusing to leave office after their terms expire. In his speech Tuesday at the African Union headquarters, he conceded unfamiliarity with that concept because as a second-term U.S. president, he’s constitutionally barred from running again.

“I actually think I’m a pretty good president,” Obama said. “I think if I ran, I could win. But I can’t!”

That’s just fine with the president. Obama said he’s looking forward to leaving behind the trappings of office, including his presidential security detail, and having more flexibility to do things like travel to Africa after he leaves the White House. He said although he’s still relatively young, he knows a new president with new insights will be good for the U.S.

“The point is, I don’t understand why people want to stay so long,” Obama said with a sly grin. “Especially when they’ve got a lot of money.”

He compared one of his personal heroes, former South African President Nelson Mandela, to America’s first president, George Washington, noting that both were willing to leave office and transfer power peacefully to their successors.

In Rwanda, lawmakers are considering removing presidential term limits from the country’s constitution in a process that could see President Paul Kagame extend his rule beyond two terms. Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, was just elected to a third term although he is constitutionally limited to two.

“When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife,” Obama said, citing Burundi as a particular example. “This is often just a first step down a perilous path.”


3 Responses

  1. He is not threatening to run for a third term (which would require a constitutional amendment approved by 3/4 of the states). He is trying to convince African leaders to accept office and leave office. In the United States, the decision of George Washington to retire after eight years, and John Adams being defeated for re-election four years later were probably the most important events in American political history and set a pattern that still governs. In most African countries, no leader has ever stepped down voluntarily and almost none have ever had the opposition leader win an election (by way of comparison, in Israel and India it was 30 years before they had a change of party in control, and in Russia it has never happened yet).

    Obama wasn’t threatening to try for a third term. He was telling African why they should imitate the US policy against “presidents for life”.

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