Bill Clinton for both answers. First of all, I think Bill Clinton could probably win an election against anybody, especially if it took place today.
Secondly, P-Funk George Clinton’s appeal would be the idea of having a really cool guy be President and I think even George Clinton would admit that Bill is way cooler than he is. I mean, sure, George Clinton wrote “Atomic Dog”, but I’m pretty sure that “Atomic Dog” is ABOUT Bill Clinton.
You’re not the only person who gets confused by Presidential succession. I receive a lot of questions about who would become President in this-or-that instance. One particular point that many people seem to be confused by can be answered easily: there is never, ever an instance in which an outgoing President’s term is extended past the date that he is scheduled to leave office. No emergency, no electoral dispute, nothing can ever extend a President’s term other than re-election. If a President is scheduled to leave office at 12:00 PM on January 20th, that’s the end of the line, no matter what happens.
As for your specific question, if the recount or the court battle over Bush vs. Gore in 2000 had continued into the new year and not been resolved by Inauguration Day 2001, the Presidency would have ended up with the person next in the line of succession. President Clinton and Vice President Gore were both scheduled to leave office at 12:00 PM on January 20, 2001, so if the election had not had a result by that point, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, would have become President at that time and served until the 2000 election was decided.
The election dispute in 2000 ended up continuing into December before the Supreme Court ended the recount and Gore conceded to Bush. Throughout Presidential campaigns, the two major party nominees — in this case Bush and Gore — receive CIA intelligence briefings so that they are up-to-date on what is going on around the world and prepared for if or when they become President. As the dispute stretched on, President Clinton actually approved CIA briefings for Speaker Hastert in case he had to assume the Presidency on Inauguration Day.
I have previously answered this question with more depth but can’t find it, so I apologize if this answer isn’t quite as good as the first time around.
All three of those Presidents that you mentioned absolutely loved being President. Bill Clinton absolutely would have sought a third term if not for the 22nd Amendment. I think he would have kept running for the Presidency until the day he died if there were no term limits.
Eisenhower and Reagan are a little bit tougher because of their age. To this day, Reagan and Eisenhower (in that order) are the oldest Presidents in history upon leaving office. If they were younger, I think both of them would definitely have run again.
Reagan was just over two weeks shy of his 78th birthday when he left office and his official biographer, Edmund Morris, has noted that Reagan was clearly in failing health with what was probably the early stages of his Alzheimer’s Disease. Although Reagan remained in the public eye until 1994, I doubt that he would have run again if there were no term limits. He probably would have wanted to, but as protective as Nancy was of the President, I don’t think that she would have allowed it because she knew better than anyone the struggles that he was having with his memory and his energy in the last 18 months or so of his Presidency.
Eisenhower was 70 when he turned the White House over to JFK in 1961. Again, if it were up to him, I’m sure Ike would have wanted to remain in office, particularly since he had such doubts about JFK and even about the GOP nominee in 1960, his own Vice President, Richard Nixon. But like Reagan, eight years in the White House had taken a toll of Eisenhower’s health. For a time, there were questions about whether he would run for reelection in 1956, and many of his closest aides and friends and even his influential brother Milton urged him not to. In his first term, Ike had survived a significant heart attack and a brutal bout with ileitis which required emergency surgery. Of course, Eisenhower did win a second term, but there were health scares in that term, as well, including a stroke. Because of his health issues, I don’t think he would have sought a third term even if he were able to.
President Clinton and Bob Dole being Senate Spouses is pretty great. Clinton and Dole are right up near the top of the list when it comes to former campaign rivals who enjoyed a friendly relationship afterward. I think it would probably have to be Clinton and George H. W. Bush, though. I love reading about how close they are and how Clinton’s basically been adopted into the Bush Family.
Honorable mentions would go to Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford who bonded after their 1976 campaign against each other. Also, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie. Despite losing to FDR in 1940, Willkie gave Roosevelt his support as the U.S. entered World War II. FDR even sent Willkie to Europe as a special envoy during the war. Of course, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had themselves a little bit of a beef that turned into one of history’s most fascinating friendships as they aged.
Worst? The relationship between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams was pretty nasty and I’d be stunned if there wasn’t some animosity between George W. Bush and Al Gore, but I’m going to go with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover. At one point, FDR and Hoover were quite friendly, but issues heated up between them during the transition after FDR beat Hoover in the 1932 election. Once FDR was President, Hoover was treated as if he were radioactive. Despite Hoover’s massive success in relief efforts during the first World War, FDR asked nothing from Hoover. After FDR died, it only took a few days before President Truman contacted Hoover for advice and to put him to work.
Kind of like awarding President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize? I guess it doesn’t make much sense, but if it’s GLAAD giving Clinton an award, who am I to say he doesn’t deserve it?
"It’s frustrating when I think we’re majoring in the minors, either over the budget debate, or going right back to politics as soon as the last election is over instead of getting into the grimy details where the future of America will be written."
— Bill Clinton, on how people need to stop obsessing over Hillary’s 2016 plans or potential Presidential candidates and focus on the problems today. (Via Politico)
I think that Eisenhower and Reagan probably would have been tempted to seek a third term, if possible. They both had health problems during their Presidencies, but I could see Eisenhower seeking a third term anyway. He had a difficult time stepping away, which is one reason why he waited so long to give Richard Nixon a solid endorsement in 1960. It wasn’t necessarily a lack of confidence in Nixon’s abilities, but partly because Ike felt that he (Ike) was still the best man for the job.
Reagan, like Clinton, loved being President, too. But when Reagan left office in 1989, he was about two weeks away from his 78th birthday and, according to his official biographer, Edmund Morris, there were signs that he may have been facing the early stages of his Alzheimer’s in the last few weeks of his Administration. Since President Reagan looked relatively healthy and definitely looked fit for his age, it’s difficult for people to realize that he was almost a full eight years older than Eisenhower (70) was when Ike left office. Even if Eisenhower had served another term, Ike still would have been four years younger than Reagan at the end of that third term. I think Reagan’s age and deteriorating health would have prevented him from a third term if it was Constitutionally possible. As closely as his public image was protected by Nancy Reagan, there is no way she would have stood by while he hung on for another term and publicly started to suffer from serious Alzheimer’s symptoms.
An interesting thing is that, if they had the opportunity to run for a third term and their health allowed it, I think Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton all would have been easily elected to another term. I think George W. Bush would have had a much more difficult time with seeking a third term, if possible. However, I don’t think Bush would have run again even if he was Constitutionally eligible. In those last few months of 2008, President Bush looked SO ready to get back to Texas. Even if his chances of being re-elected were positive, I still think he would have chosen retirement instead of a third term.
As for the second part of your question, I think that Truman would have stepped away in 1952, no matter what. All Truman ever wanted to do was remain a U.S. Senator. When he was suggested as a potential Vice Presidential candidate, he was not interested, and when others reminded him that President Franklin D. Roosevelt likely wouldn’t survive the term, Truman declared that he didn’t want to be President either. Of course, he was elected Vice President and as in the case of almost every VP who succeeds to the Presidency, once Truman got to the White House he wanted to be elected to a term in his own right. Still, before Eisenhower declared that he was a Republican, Truman was suggesting that he (Truman) would be happy to step aside and be Eisenhower’s running mate if Ike wanted to run for President as a Democrat. So, Harry Truman did not mind retiring home to Missouri in 1952, and I think he would have done so, no matter what.
LBJ’s case was different. The fact that he was very nearly upset in the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic Primary by Eugene McCarthy really shook President Johnson up and showed that he was vulnerable. If there wasn’t a serious challenge from within his own party — first from McCarthy and then from RFK — LBJ would have stayed in that race in 1968. Despite his withdrawal from the race, deep down LBJ still had a flicker of hope that the Democratic National Convention would be deadlocked, turn to the outgoing LBJ, draft him into the race, nominate him, and he’d be the conquering hero, vanquishing Nixon and bringing the Vietnam War to an end.
LBJ was also a man of contradictions, though. Throughout his life, he always said that he would die young because all of the men in his family died by the time they were 64 or 65. As much as Johnson was addicted to power and craved the love of the American people (something that he never received like JFK did, which “broke his heart” according to Richard Nixon), he was also deeply worried that another four years in the White House would kill him. Worse yet, he would suffer an incapacitating stroke like Woodrow Wilson. LBJ often had a nightmare where he fell ill like Wilson and was an invalid — a shell of a once-powerful man bedridden or feebly being rolled through the White House in a wheelchair. It was an macabre thing to think about, but it was something that frequently haunted President Johnson, especially because he had suffered a near-fatal massive heart attack in 1955 when he was Senate Majority Leader. The confident, arrogant, impetuous, strong-willed LBJ wanted to take on Nixon and serve four more years in the White House. The sensitive, insecure, depressed LBJ considered resigning, didn’t think he’d live through the next term (1969-1973), and often had to receive a pep talk from Lady Bird to get his act together and go to work. So, with LBJ, it would actually depend on which LBJ you got on decision day when it comes to whether he would have sought a third term if not for the disastrous results of the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic Primary.
By the way, Lyndon Johnson died on January 22, 1973. If he had served a third term, it would have ended on January 20, 1973, just two days prior to the day that he actually died.
Is there nothing on there for Clinton? I really have to update that page.
Yes, there are quite a few great books on Clinton and I’ll list more than one because any of them will do the job.
•The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House by John F. Harris (BOOK•KINDLE) is one of my favorites. It’s not a full-fledged biography, just a history of Clinton’s Presidency, but it’s a fantastic book by a solid journalist.
•The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton by Joe Klein (BOOK•KINDLE) is another favorite of mine. It’s short and again focuses just on Clinton’s Presidency, but you’ll really like it if you’re a big Clinton supporter because it sells his legacy about as good as anything else.
•I’m a fan of all of Nigel Hamilton’s work. He’s written two books on Clinton, one on his early life and rise to power, and one on his Presidency. The first one is the best one, Bill Clinton: An American Journey: Great Expectations (BOOK•KINDLE) but it’s definitely worth checking out Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency (BOOK•KINDLE), too.
I could keep going on and on with Clinton books. You can’t go wrong with these books either:
•First In His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton by David Maraniss (BOOK•KINDLE)
•The Agenda by Bob Woodward (BOOK•KINDLE): Great look at the early struggles of Clinton’s Presidency
•The Choice: How Bill Clinton Won by Bob Woodward (BOOK•KINDLE): An even better Woodward-style book on the 1996 election
•All Too Human: A Political Education by George Stephanopoulos (BOOK•KINDLE): One of the best insider accounts of a White House at work
And I’ll just end the list with President Clinton’s own autobiography, My Life (BOOK•KINDLE), which is one of the better memoirs written by a President. Like I said, I could go on-and-on because there are lots of good Clinton books. I’ll get that Essential Books page updated soon.