Here’s something strange: the spouse of the President is not included in the White House’s order of precedence. The widow of a former President is on the list, but not the spouse for some reason. Despite that, the First Lady (or First Gentleman when it happens) is usually given a place of prominence next to the President.
Former Presidents are lower on the order of precedence list than you might expect. This is how the top of the precedence list looks:
1. President of the United States
2. Monarchs, Foreign heads of state or heads of government
3. Vice President of the United States
4. Governor (when an event is held in a specific state)
5. Mayor (when an event is held in a specific city)
6. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
7. Chief Justice of the United States
8. Former Presidents in order of their term (so, right now, it would be President Carter > President Bush 41 > President Clinton > President Bush 43)
If Hillary Clinton is elected and Bill Clinton becomes First Gentleman, the order of precedence would likely be this: President Clinton 45 (Hillary) and then President Clinton 42 (Bill). It’s not official, but that’s probably how it would go.
George W. Bush can be — and should be — criticized for a great number of things, but I’ve never heard anything that would indicate that he was racially intolerant.
With PEPFAR, Bush 43 did more to help combat AIDS in Africa than any other President in American history. Throughout both of his terms, one of the most influential and prominent members of his Administration was a black female — first as National Security Advisor and then as Secretary of State. Think about this: George W. Bush served eight years as President and he didn’t have a white Secretary of State — the nation’s top diplomatic post and most visible representative of our country other than the President — serve even one minute of those eight years. In his first term, the Secretary of State was Colin Powell; in the second term, it was Condoleezza Rice.
And here’s the impressive part: Bush — a Republican from Texas — never used the diversity of his Cabinet as a political selling point as many other recent Presidents have done. With the exception of Hillary Clinton in his first term, President Obama has appointed white men to run the State Department, Treasury Department, and the Department of Defense, just as every single one of his predecessor’s has done, with the exception of Bush 43 and Bill Clinton (who appointed Madeline Albright as his second term Secretary of State).
President Clinton used to keep a moon rock nearby, though:
"I got NASA to loan me a moon rock, carbon-dated 3.6 billion years old. I put it on the table in the Oval Office and when people started the crazy stuff, I’d say, ‘Wait a minute, guys. See that rock? It’s 3.6 billion years old. We’re all just passing through. Take a deep breath, calm down, let’s see what makes sense.’ It had an incredible calming effect!"
First of all, nobody on Duck Dynasty should ever be taken seriously, especially when it comes to foreign policy. “Convert them or kill them” is literally the exact same mission statement that ISIS has. So, fuck Duck Dynasty and everybody involved in it. This issue probably shouldn’t be decided by someone on a reality show who is just as religiously fanatic as the ISIS terrorists, but instead of having ridiculous beards and beheading people, they have ridiculous beards and have something to do with ducks (I assume that’s what they are about. I’ve never watched the show because I’m not…you know…an idiot.)
As for President Obama not having a strategy, that’s not accurate; the Obama White House just has the worst Communications team in Presidential history. It’s actually remarkable how terrible Obama’s Communications strategy has been — for BOTH terms — considering the main strategy of the 2008 election was telling personal stories and delivering a solid message. I sat in Camp Obama in San Francisco for three days in August 2007 learning the importance of message, message, message, and seven years later (Holy shit, seven years!?), the Obama White House fumbles everything that it doesn’t punt. In 2012, I did a semi-live blog of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and this is what I wrote when Bill Clinton spoke:
"Clinton is just straight breaking down everything that’s happened from 2009 until today, why it has happened, and what it means for you. If he can’t be President anymore, can we just have him explain everything that our government does? Would anyone have an issue with that?"
As I said back then, can’t we just make Bill Clinton the National “Where’s What Happened?” Czar?
One last point about ISIS or ISIL or IS (for a barbaric terrorist group with such high-quality production value, you’d think they’d do a better job of branding) — it’s not that the Obama Administration doesn’t have a strategy; they just don’t know how to explain the fact that this can’t ever be a traditional war or military intervention. ISIS isn’t going to throw away their arms, shed their uniforms, and run into the desert. ISIS isn’t going to renounce their ways and there isn’t going to be some de-ISISfication. ISIS isn’t going to be pounded into submission, sign a peace treaty on a warship, and then train to be a legitimate police force. ISIS is the Mujahideen in Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion. ISIS is those Japanese soldiers in World War II who wouldn’t surrender and wouldn’t believe anybody who told them that the Emperor DID surrender, so they kept hiding in some jungle on a remote Pacific island for 40 years. ISIS isn’t a group of Iraqis or Syrians fomenting terror against their own government. ISIS is a band of terrorists from all over the globe — including Americans and the British — who genuinely believe that they are creating an Islamic Caliphate that will take over the world. Syria and Iraq isn’t the goal; it’s their launching pad.
I don’t know how to solve the problem. I know that the United States can’t do it alone, and I know that a coalition should include a significant, leading role for the Arab states because they should be scared to death by ISIS. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt — they should all realize that they are next on the ISIS list. But that coalition needs to be built soon and it needs to be built carefully because what happens if ISIS attacks Israel? Israel won’t hesitate to fight back or to protect itself, and then we’d see Israel’s traditional enemies in a position where they can’t fight ISIS overtly because allying themselves with Israel would be unpopular with the Muslim majorities within their countries. And that would open up even more opportunities for ISIS to gain footholds in other countries in the region and destabilize it even further. This is a frightening situation.
The real Nixon would have been harsher privately on his fellow Republicans, but always loyal publicly. Like Harry Truman, Richard Nixon was a strict party man, although for different sides, of course. That was how he was in the later years of his life, as his former aide Monica Crowley recounted in two really interesting books: Nixon Off-The-Record: His Candid Commentary on People and Politics and Nixon In Winter: His Final Revelations About Diplomacy, Watergate, and Life Out of the Arena.
Nixon ended up liking Bill Clinton personally. He had a lot of critical things to say about Clinton (as well as about everyone else), especially during the 1992 campaign, but Nixon really appreciated the fact that Clinton reached out to him and asked for advice once he was President. Most of Nixon’s other successors distanced themselves from him while President Clinton began calling him and engaging him in long talks, particularly about Russia and China, almost as soon as he was inaugurated.
The Twitter parody Nixon might be supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, but the real Nixon wouldn’t have warmed up to her that much. He did say (privately) that he was surprised by how pleasant and likable she was when he met the Clintons at the White House, but Nixon had a long memory and Hillary was a lawyer on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment inquiry that led to Nixon’s resignation. He respected her, but the real Nixon would have held a grudge, as well as his endorsement or vote.
Does the President have to be dead? Because I was always a big fan of President Clinton’s dog, Buddy, who passed away not too long after Clinton left the White House.
Theodore Roosevelt’s menagerie was pretty impressive, too, and I think that it should be a misdemeanor if any conversation about Presidents and their pets fails to include Calvin Coolidge’s raccoon, Rebecca. Yes, you read that sentence correctly: President Coolidge had a pet raccoon named Rebecca. Seeing our more recent Presidents walking their dogs around the White House grounds is a familiar sight to us today, but if we had been around during the Coolidge Administration, we probably would have seen “Silent Cal” roaming the halls of the White House with Rebecca the raccoon hitching a ride by hugging the President’s neck.
(Incidentally, there is a fantastic website which focuses solely on Presidents and their pets — the Presidential Pet Museum! The website is a fun virtual destination for the history and stories of Presidential pets, but the curators are also in the process of building an actual Presidential Pet Museum in Virginia which is slated to open sometime in 2015.)
I don’t believe that the 22nd Amendment contradicts the 12th Amendment at all. The 22nd Amendment instituted term limits while the 12th Amendment defined the eligibility requirements for the Presidency and the Vice Presidency, noting that “no person Constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice President of the United States.”
There are some who argue that the 22nd Amendment only means that someone who has served two-terms as President can’t be elected President, but that it doesn’t prohibit a former two-term President from assuming the Presidency another way, such as succession via the Vice Presidency. Perhaps the literal meaning of the 22nd Amendment can be interpreted as only restricting a former two-term President from being elected President again, but that doesn’t abrogate the 12th Amendment.
For someone who has served two-terms as President to even become Vice President and possibly succeed to the Presidency (as those who believe it is possible suggest), that former President would have to either be elected to the Vice Presidency or appointed to the Vice Presidency in the case of a vacancy in the office. Well, the 12th Amendment pretty clearly states (in my opinion) that anyone Constitutionally ineligible to be President (such as someone who has already served two terms) is ineligible to be Vice President. So, that person is prohibited from being elected Vice President, too.
So, what about a term-limited President being appointed to fill a vacancy in the Vice Presidency? First of all, that nominee would have to be confirmed by a majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, so that’s an obstacle for someone whose eligibility is supposedly up-in-the-air Constitutionally. Secondly, the last sentence of the 12th Amendment — the one dealing with this aspect of Presidential eligibility only says, "But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States."
Those who argue that the 22nd Amendment leaves an opening for a term-limited President to possibly become President through succession are relying on a strictly literal interpretation of the 22nd Amendment. If that is how they interpret the Constitution, the 12th Amendment would also have to be interpreted just as strictly, and it would not only restrict a term-limited President from being elected as Vice President, but it would prohibit that former President from becoming Vice President through any means that anybody could come up with. Take a look at that sentence from the 12th Amendment in boldface print above. If we use that strict interpretation of it and define it literally, word-for-word, it says nothing about “election” or “appointment” or “service”. It flat-out says, in language that has much more clarity than just about anything else in the Constitution, that nobody can be Vice President if they are ineligible to be President.
Listen, I’d love more than anything to see Bill Clinton back in the White House, and not just as First Gentleman, but I don’t see any possible way that the 12th Amendment or 22nd Amendment should or could be interpreted to allow a term-limited President to become Vice President in any manner whatsoever. Nothing in the 22nd Amendment abrogates the 12th, contradicts anything in the 12th, or gives any aspect of the 12th a new or different meaning.
Incidentally, if Hillary could appoint Bill as her Vice President, there would be a habitation clause issue that could either challenge their eligibility or cause easily avoidable problems in the Electoral College. Every Electoral vote counts and no candidate wants to risk giving up any more Electoral votes than they need to. If Hillary was allowed to name Bill as her running mate — and, again, she totally can’t, no matter what some people argue — electors from New York wouldn’t be able to cast Electoral ballots for both Hillary and Bill. The 12th Amendment prohibits Presidential electors to cast both of their votes (one for President and one for Vice President) for candidates who have the same state residency. While the electors of the other 49 states could cast both ballots for Hillary and Bill, the New York electors would have their votes disqualified for violating the 12th Amendment if they did so. No party, ticket, campaign, or candidate is going to risk losing a single Electoral vote, especially when it’s 100% unavoidable such as in this case, and New York has 29 Electoral votes in play during a Presidential election.
And, even if they overcame all of these Constitutional obstacles — which they couldn’t because I’m not the smartest guy in the world, I’ve never studied law, and I’m not exactly a Constitutional scholar, but even I am not confused by the wording or clarity of these guidelines — they have one more roadblock. In 1961, John F. Kennedy appointed his brother, Bobby Kennedy, to serve as his Attorney General and as a member of his Cabinet, which led to claims of nepotism. In 1967, a law was passed that states:
A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official. An individual may not be appointed, employed, promoted, or advanced in or to a civilian position in an agency if such appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement has been advocated by a public official, serving in or exercising jurisdiction or control over the agency, who is a relative of the individual.
And defined a “relative” as:
“relative” means, with respect to a public official, an individual who is related to the public official as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, or half sister.
Now, this law is a bit more vague than the 12th Amendment and 22nd Amendment because it’s not clear whether “a public official” includes a major party nominee for the President who has not yet been elected or whether selecting a running mate would be considered appointing, employing, promoting, advancing, or advocating for appointment, employment, promoting, or advancement, but it sounds like it would be a struggle. And, guess what? Even if they still overcame all of the Constitutional questions and Electoral College issues and potential problems with the nepotism law, there would still be a Joint Session of Congress in which the Electoral College results would need to be certified and that would present yet another opportunity for their eligibility to be challenged, which I imagine it most certainly would be since, as I’ve mentioned a few times in this post, Bill Clinton would definitely be Constitutionally ineligible to be elected Vice President, be appointed Vice President, serve as President, or even sneak into the Vice President’s office sit down at the VP’s desk and pretend to be Vice President.
So, no, it couldn’t happen, and even if it could there would be so many potential roadblocks — not even Constitutionally, but just politically — that they would be dumb to even attempt it.
42nd President of the United States (1993-2001)
Full Name: William Jefferson Clinton (Born: William Jefferson Blythe III)
Born: August 19, 1946, Julia Chester Hospital, Hope, Arkansas
Political Party: Democratic
State Represented: Arkansas
Term: January 20, 1993-January 20, 2001
Age at Inauguration: 46 years, 149 days
Administration: 52nd and 53rd
Congresses: 103rd, 104th, 105th, and 106th
Vice President: Albert Arnold “Al” Gore, Jr.
Age at Death:
2012 Dead Presidents Ranking: 10 of 43 [↑1]
Ask many of those Republicans who called for Bill Clinton’s impeachment or fought against so many of the Clinton Administration’s achievements whether they miss Bill Clinton today and I think they’ll tell you “Yes!”. Were we better off during the Clinton Administration? Absolutely. Was Bill Clinton a talented political leader? Definitely. If not for the Twenty-Second Amendment would Bill Clinton either still be President or running for President today? I would hope so, and considering Clinton’s reputation for being endlessly energetic, I can’t imagine him sitting on the sidelines if he could be in the game. Many Americans in 2014 would have to look up the definition of a “budget surplus” to understand what it is. We enjoyed three straight budget surpluses during the Clinton Administration. Even when he was being impeached and on trial in the Senate, his approval ratings were high, and no President’s approval ratings were higher upon leaving office. A decade without Clinton in the White House has done more than anything to make us miss having Clinton in the White House. After the 2016 election, we very may well have another Clinton in the Oval Office — and an exceedingly brilliant and capable one — if finally Hillary shatters that glass ceiling and wins the Presidency. But no matter how good Hillary might be (and I believe she’ll be fantastic if elected), she might not even be the best President sleeping in her bedroom because, as the years pass and she is in the midst of building her own legacy (if elected), Bill Clinton’s Presidency will continue to be remembered as a time of prosperity that millions of Americans remain nostalgic for. Bill Clinton’s personal failures and flaws may have been embarrassing to him, humiliating to his family, and uncomfortable for the American people, but the fact that Americans crave a leader like him in the White House is a testament to his skill as a politician and the strength of his Administration’s achievements.
1948: Schlesinger Sr./Life Magazine: Not Ranked
1962: Schlesinger Sr./New York Times Magazine: Not Ranked
1982: Neal/Chicago Tribune Magazine: Not Ranked
1990: Siena Institute: Not Ranked
1996: Schlesinger Jr./New York Times Magazine: 20 of 39
2000: C-SPAN Survey of Historians: 21 of 41
2000: C-SPAN Public Opinion Poll: 36 of 41
2005: Wall Street Journal/Presidential Leadership: 22 of 40
2009: C-SPAN Survey of Historians: 15 of 42
2010: Siena Institute: 13 of 43
2011: University of London’s U.S. Presidency Centre: 19 of 40
Recently, I wrote about how I dislike doing rankings of the Presidents because it always is the catalyst for a lot of whining, complaining, and annoying comments from readers who disagree or think I am a hack. Performance rankings are also difficult to do because history is always-evolving. However, I’ve decided to rank something that is much more important than job performance. I’ve decided to take the time to give my expert opinion — after years and years of deep study — to this very specific aspect of history which affects all of us each and every day.
So, without further ado, here are the Top 5 examples of Presidential Facial Hair in American History:
5. JEFFERSON DAVIS
And we’re already off to a controversial start! Jefferson Davis was an American President. I understand he wasn’t President of the United States. People mention this to me everytime I call him an “American President”. Guess what, I’ve been studying the Presidents for a long time; I know which ones were Presidents of the United States. Anyway, Jefferson Davis rocked the coolest goatee of any President — United States, Confederate States, Texas, Bear Flag Republic, Continental Congress, wherever — in American History. Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the only President with a beard during the Civil War! Davis also gets bonus points because, as an old man, he grew his goatee into a white Van Dyke that should be a requirement for all retired Southern statesmen.
4. YOUNG BILL CLINTON
Please try to divert your attention from the former Secretary of State’s gigantic glasses. Hillary’s glasses were so big in the 1970s that she was able to see into the future and yell at Bill for cheating on her. As for Bill, the beard alone wouldn’t be as impressive as the beard of Rutherford B. Hayes or James Garfield, but the combination of Clinton’s beard and his lion’s mane of hair gives him this coveted spot on the list. Sure, Bill, we know you didn’t inhale…there weren’t any potheads who looked like this in the 70s. Interesting historical note: this photograph captures the only two people who voted for George McGovern in 1972.
3. MARTIN VAN BUREN
They called him the “Red Fox of Kinderhook”, but Martin Van Buren looked like a mad scientist. When facial hair was out of style and before sideburns got their name (from Civil War General Ambrose E. Burnside, who popularized the look), the 8th President of the United States possessed side whiskers that looked like they were styled with jolts of electricity. Van Buren was considered a “dandy” by many fellow politicians of his day, but his fashionable clothing, expensive jewelry, and fancy gloves often seem mismatched with facial hair that resembled solar flares.
WOLVERINE…I MEAN, YOUNG THEODORE ROOSEVELT
How can you not love Theodore Roosevelt? He looks like one of the X-Men! A century before Marvel Comics apparently stole his image for a superhero, Theodore Roosevelt roamed the Badlands, herded cattle, hunted buffalo and horse thieves, and boxed for fun. “That damned cowboy”, as Mark Hanna would later call him, would eventually clean up and grow a normal-looking mustache but as a young man, TR looked every bit the Rough Rider that he wanted so much to be. With age and higher office, Roosevelt would resort to nice suits and his pretentious pince-nez glasses. That came after his Spanish-American War successes in Cuba, but young TR looked like a present-day prisoner at Guantanamo.
1. CHESTER ALAN ARTHUR
Let’s not kid ourselves, my fine readers. There could only be one winner for best Presidential facial hair and that man is Chester Alan Arthur, 21st President of the United States. Arthur was a trendsetter in fashion — an owner of over 80 pairs of pants who changed clothes several times a day. Any Mount Rushmore of Presidential facial hair must feature Arthur in the Washington position. Those aren’t “whiskers” or “sideburns” — those are MUTTON CHOPS. And they are monumental. Lemmy from Motörhead wakes up every morning, smokes a cigarette, washes down some amphetamines with swigs of Jack Daniels, looks in the mirror, sighs, and a single, solitary tear rolls down his cheek in envy of President Arthur’s facial hair. Washington is the Father of His Country, Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase, and Lincoln freed the slaves, but Chet Arthur sported the most badass chops in American History. If you are an aspiring President or an aspiring Wizard of Oz, look no further than Chester Alan Arthur’s facial hair because that’s how legends are made.