“For 40 years that I’ve been in this town, I’ve gone home because my wife and family are there and because, frankly, I think it’s healthy to get out of Washington periodically just to get your mind straight and your perspective straight.”

–Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, explaining why he ran up an $800,000 travel bill making 27 personal trips to his California home via government aircraft since July 2011.

Forty years enchained in Washington! Good God, where was the Thirteenth Amendment when Leon Panetta needed it? There was Leon, working his heart out for the American taxpayer in the unhealthy environs of our Nation’s Capital for four decades as – let’s see, how many government offices, elective and otherwise, has the poor soul had to endure? Let’s run down the list, beginning with his arrival as an upwardly mobile indentured servant in the mid-1960s:

From 1966 to 1969 he was legislative assistant to California Senator Thomas Kuchel; after which he served for two years at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare; after which he took a two-year break from Washington – to go into the private sector? No, to indenture himself on New York’s public payroll as the executive assistant to Mayor John Lindsay; then back to the federal payroll as a U.S. congressman for 15 years; after which he was shackled to the Clinton White House as OMB director and chief of staff, then. . . .

Have I made my point? If not, the question to be asked is how – after eight years breathing free air during the Bush 43 era – Leon was lured back to Washington to serve as CIA director (2009-2011), then Secretary of Defense (2011- )?

Given his obvious distaste, if not contempt, for the place, it’s an ongoing mystery. My solution? Term limits for appointed federal office holders. After four to six years in Washington, back to private, not to mention family, life. Call it the Panetta Rule, an Emancipation Proclamation for all those put-upon political hacks who’ve been in Washington so long they consider the town a place you have to “get out of periodically just to get your mind straight and your perspective straight.”

Sound bite to remember

“I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do; and for the people who like country music, denigrate means ‘put down.’”

                                                                                         –Bob Newhart