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Slade Gorton
Political leader

Slade Gorton

A former U.S. Senator and Washington State Attorney General, Slade Gorton served on the 9/11 Commission.

A term too long

Q: When he died this week, Robert Byrd, who was a frail 92, had represented West Virginia in the Senate for more than 50 years. Is it generally a good idea for top leaders in any sector to serve that long, or that late in life? Given the common instinct to hang on, should limits be imposed?

Senator Byrd, like Senator Thurmond ahead of him, served at least one full term too long, both for the institution and for their states, mostly as a result of ego and/or record seeking. They did so, however, at the behest of their constituents, and I do not believe that that option should be taken away from the voters.

Leadership in the Senate, on the other hand, is a grant from a senator's colleagues, and is now properly subject to term limits, except for the honorific of President Pro Tempore. Neither was a committee chairman at the end of his tenure. Since the latter position is in the line of succession to the president, it can and should be subject to an age limitation.

By Slade Gorton

 |  June 29, 2010; 10:29 AM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Democracy is agnostic to competence, per se. Here's to ex-Senator Domenici for not seeking another term because he was informed he had a worsening dementia. He would have been re-elected, otherwise.

Posted by: snowyphile | June 29, 2010 4:37 PM
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Byrd's floor speech in opposition to President G.W. Bush's request for authorization to start the Iraq war was delivered when the Senator was well into his 80's. Given that the speech was truer to a Senator's Constitutional responsiblities than any other Senator's remarks at the time, it would have been a shame if the Honorable Senator Byrd had been in mandatory retirement and unable to deliver the historic dissent.

Posted by: publius28 | June 29, 2010 3:30 PM
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Would you want a police officer on the streets at age 90 making decisions that could affect a persons life..? No. Would you allow a 90 year old surgeon work on you..? No. Then why is it ok to have a 90 year old person make some of the most important decisions about a country? We limit the terms a president can serve, cops have mandatory retirement ages, even actors know when it is time to retire. You can not progressively grow as a country when elderly people hold important positions of power, well past their prime.

Posted by: duckie86 | June 29, 2010 2:57 PM
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There should be a Federal law against running for office after the age of 80. At that point, over 50% of the people you went to high school with are already dead.

Posted by: AxelDC | June 29, 2010 2:41 PM
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Byrd was in office when I was in 8th grade. Byrd was probably unable to remember what he had for lunch the previous day. He was way too old to serve. Respect old people but let's keep them at home or in the park. Not making decisions about the economy or military issues.

Posted by: boise91801 | June 29, 2010 1:24 PM
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I respected the feisty, white-haired little man who seemed to have been born a Senator, and admire his accomplishments. But I think he stayed too long. I am reminded of Strom Thurmond, age 100, who was wheeled around the Senate barely able to comment on topics of discussion. Bryd was another one whose desire to be a Senator outlived his ability to be one. This should not happen.

Posted by: drzimmern1 | June 29, 2010 12:31 PM
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Ol' Strom served only ONE term too long? You're too generous. That hypocritical, lecherous racist was unfit for public office from the day he was born.

Posted by: angelas1 | June 29, 2010 12:28 PM
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