JC Watts column

Stephens Media Group

10/21/09 – Bonded Term Limits---An Idea Whose Time Has Come 

In 2001 I was riding high. Seven years in the U.S. House of Representatives, a winning percentage of 65.7% in my 2000 Congressional race. Thoughts of becoming Speaker of the House were dancing in my head. Speaker of the House; third in line for the Presidency; private jets, limousines; motorcades--and all paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. The ultimate high.  

But something was bothering me; Quite frankly it was the knowledge that I had made a promise to my constituency from the 4th district of Oklahoma. A simple promise made when I was first elected in 1994 that I would limit my term in office. That my credibility as a candidate and as a person had been assured to the voters because I placed belief in my agenda for America ahead of my personal self interest in becoming a career politician. That by limiting my term I would not allow the influence of being re-elected to interfere with my beliefs for America as a nation. This term limit promise was a material component for me and 73 other freshmen Congress people elected to the House in 1994. The great majority of us signed a formal agreement called the Contract With America, which included limited tenures in office. We were credible as candidates with an agenda for America--not an agenda for ourselves.   

My dilemma was real. My human nature was saying "you've got it now--keep it. Don't all politicians bend the truth?” Easy cover had already been provided by 68 of the 73 Representatives who had taken the term limit pledge and already broken their commitment with political maneuverings. It would have been simple to just hide among the pack. For me there was another matter of simple right and wrong. I had made a promise. Wasn't my word my bond? Isn't this value what I had been taught by my parents? Isn't this what I was trying to teach my own children?  

I had promised to limit my term and I would do so. In 2002 I stepped down from the House of Representatives to a barrage of speculation about my motives and my real political agenda. As the only African American Republican was he unhappy? Was this a hiatus for a possible Senate run? Maybe a shot at the Presidency? In reality my stepping down was only doing what I had promised to do. I had placed the good of America ahead of what might have been more beneficial to me personally. I have not for one minute regretted my decision to step down. Unfortunately, those 68 Representatives who had also taken the pledge concluded that America could not survive without their continuing services.   

Although numerous polls indicate that 70% to 84% of America's voters favor limited tenure in office, the issue has been buried since the Contract With America lost its soul at the turn of the 21st century. Elected representatives often renege on the one promise they can keep.  

Today maybe hope has resurrected itself. Although the political class has destroyed the concept that "my word is my bond", a group from tiny Pinehurst, North Carolina has created a mechanism to try and restore trust in our politicians. The Alliance For Bonded Term Limits which suggests that candidates for office validate their term limit commitment however long it is, by bonding their pledge with a portion of their personal assets. Those assets will be forfeited to charity if the term limit promise is broken. Revolutionary and quite interesting. Every challenger for office next year should make such a pledge. Voters should insist that all elected representatives place the good of America in front of their personal self-interest for re-election. This is the one promise all politicians can keep without affect from others.   

Bonded Term Limits has no party affiliation. It is non-partisan. It simply seeks elected representatives who place their agenda for America ahead of their personal self interest. Representatives who are willing to return to live in a world they create for others.  It is increasingly clear that the current system of having an elected leadership driven by self interests is leading America to some of her worst days.  It is sad that the very people with the power to restore true, honest leadership to the American people are the same who are benefiting from the irrational outcomes and corrupt activities to which we are continuously exposed.     

The Alliance For Bonded Term Limits (www.bondedtermlimits.org) is an organization worthy of further review.I strongly encourage you to do so.