Our Opinion: DeLeo flip-flop is arrogant, presumptuous

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House Speaker Robert DeLeo's evolution on terms limits for his office invites jaded Massachusetts residents to become even more cynical about politics.

Six years after he ordered that the speaker be limited to four two-year terms, Mr. DeLeo said Thursday that his position had "evolved" and he now opposes the limits. What appears to have evolved is Mr. DeLeo's affection for a position of power he is now reluctant to abandon.

Mr. DeLeo told reporters that House members had urged him to stay on because so much good has happened on his watch. The House has had its successes but not so many of such degree that it cannot function without Mr. DeLeo at the helm.

His argument that with a new governor and new Senate president he should stay on as speaker is presumptuous. Change is a part of government, and it is quite often healthy. It is unlikely that the Senate will collapse with Stanley Rosenberg having replaced Therese Murray, who did not run for re-election, as president, and the state will adjust to the leadership of Governor Charlie Baker. If Beacon Hill is as fragile as Mr. DeLeo suggests it has bigger problems than term limit issues.

The Eagle has long opposed term limits in general elections because voters can end an elected official's term at the ballot box. However, the paper supports term limits for leadership positions because voters have no say as to who has those positions or for how long. A representative or senator once chosen to become House Speaker or Senate president becomes nearly impossible to dislodge without term limits because the powerful leader has many means at his disposal in which to discourage or punish challengers.

The three speakers who preceded Mr. DeLeo all left the House under a cloud of ethics charges, and his predecessor is in jail. Across the border in Albany, N.Y., Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has finally stepped aside after clinging to power following his indictment on federal corruption charges. Yet Mr. DeLeo can't see how this context makes his flip-flop on term limits appear even more cynical to voters.

This Putinesque power play is a classic example of the arrogance of power. The House has stood for a couple of centuries and will continue to do so post-DeLeo. In fact, the speaker has now made it clear that he has grown so impressed with himself and his authority that the House would be better off, not worse, with new leadership.

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