Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Posts tagged "Constitution"
Asker lancer-lace Asks:
What is involved(oath and ceremony wise) if there is ever a situation where the Speaker has to succeed the office of the President and Vice-President? Do they serve out the previous President's term or do they hold the office until there is a special election? Also, who would serve as the Vice President in that situation?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

First of all, if one of the members of Congress in the Presidential line of succession (Speaker of the House or president pro tempore of the Senate) assumed office because of vacancies in the Presidency and Vice Presidency, they would have to resign their position in Congress before being sworn in as President or taking any Executive action as President.

That person would also have to meet the eligibility requirements for being President to assume the office. If, for some reason, that person didn’t meet the eligibility requirements — for example, let’s say the Speaker of the House was younger than 35 years old or had been born outside of the country — they cannot assume the office and it would pass to the next eligible person in the line of succession.

If there was no Speaker of the House or president pro tempore of the Senate, or if those two officials failed to qualify for the Presidency because they were Constitutionally ineligible, the Presidency would pass on to the next eligible person in the line of succession — members of the Cabinet in order of the date that their respective Department was established. While the Speaker and president pro tempore would have to resign their Congressional positions before taking the Presidential oath of office, any member of the Cabinet who assumes the Presidency would automatically resign their Cabinet position by the very act of taking the Presidential oath.

In both cases — whether it is one of the members of Congress or a member of the Cabinet who assumes the Presidency in the event of a Presidential and Vice Presidential vacancy — the new President would finish out the remainder of the vacated term.

Now, this is where it gets confusing — as if the line of succession and Constitutional eligibility for the Presidency isn’t confusing enough. Only the Vice President becomes President when assuming the office of the Presidency; Speakers of the House, presidents pro tempore of the Senate, and Cabinet members in the line of succession only become “Acting President”. It’s not entirely clear what that means since an “Acting President” has all of the powers and duties of an actual President of the United States, or a Vice President who succeeded to the Presidency upon a vacancy in the office. An “Acting President” can discharge any of the duties of the sitting President, so we don’t know for sure what the difference is — perhaps it’s as simple as the “Acting President” not being able to live in the White House. There’s just no precedent, just as there was no precedent for what happens when a President dies in office and a Vice President succeeds him. John Tyler’s actions when he succeeded William Henry Harrison in 1841 was followed by other Vice Presidents who followed him and eventually became the recognized process when it was codified in the 25th Amendment.

If there are vacancies in the Presidency and Vice Presidency and someone in the line of succession other than the VP assumes the office, they become “Acting President”, but there is still a vacancy in the Vice Presidency. Since that “Acting President” is invested with all the powers of the President and completes the term vacated by the President, it seems that they would be able to appoint a new Vice President (who would need to be confirmed by a majority vote in both chambers of Congress before becoming Vice President). However, a Cabinet member serving as “Acting President” can be bumped out of the position of “Acting President” if one of the Congressional leaders higher in the line of succession qualifies to become President. As an example, if there were vacancies in the offices of President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and president pro tempore of the Senate, the person next-in-line to the Presidency would be the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State would become “Acting President”, but if a new House Speaker or president pro tempore of the Senate takes office, that person could “bump” the Secretary of State from being “Acting President” and take that position. Oddly enough, the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 only allows Cabinet members serving as “Acting President” to be bumped and only by the Congressional leaders in the line of succession. The Speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate can’t be bumped out of their position if they are “Acting President”, and the Speaker can’t even bump the president pro tempore if that person assumed the office when there was a vacancy in the Presidency, Vice Presidency, and Speakership. It’s not clear if that would apply to a newly-appointed Vice President who was nominated to fill the Vice Presidential vacancy by an “Acting President”, but it’s possible that a Vice President — technically the president of the Senate — could also bump a Cabinet member. It is very confusing, and could be the source of a serious Constitutional crisis if we ever were in the difficult position of having someone lower than the VP on the line of succession assume the Presidency. Many Constitutional scholars believe that there are separation of powers issues with the idea of Congressional leaders in the line of succession being able to bump Cabinet officials serving as “Acting President”.

A couple of other issues with Presidential succession/Acting Presidents also stem from the 1947 Presidential Succession Act. The Constitution allows someone to hold two Executive Branch offices simultaneously (for an example, the Secretary of State can actually serve as Vice President), but the 1947 law explicitly prohibits a Cabinet official from holding on to their position while serving as “Acting President”. Another question mark surrounds the eligibility of certain Cabinet secretaries to assume the Presidency. The 1947 law prohibits any Cabinet members who were recess appointments from becoming “Acting President”. Also, what happens if there is a vacancy in a Cabinet position. If there is a vacancy in the position of Secretary of State, does the Presidency fall to the next person in the line of succession — the Treasury Secretary — or is the Deputy Secretary of State next in line. The 1947 law only states that the Cabinet member has to be confirmed by the Senate (technically, “appointed by the advice and consent of the Senate”), Deputy Secretaries are usually confirmed by the Senate, and if the position of Secretary is vacant, Deputy Secretaries frequently head Executive Branch Departments as “Acting Secretary” until a new Secretary if appointed and confirmed. Deputies serving as Department heads when there are vacant Secretary posts are usually considered to be in the line of succession by the White House in continuity of government exercises. But with that in mind, how many deputies does each Executive Branch Department go through before the Presidency passes on to the next Cabinet Secretary? These are the things that keep me up at night — the weird little Constitutional what-ifs. Fortunately, it’s extremely doubtful that anyone other than the Vice President will ever have to assume the Presidency, and if it got to the point where there were vacancies at the positions of President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and president pro tempore of the Senate, we’d be so worried by whatever was happening that any familiar face taking charge would be a welcome site.

Asker kray814 Asks:
I know this not going to happen but let's say hypothetically when Hilary runs in 2016, will she able to select Bill Clinton to be her VP? I know the 12th amendment says he can't be VP but the 22nd amendment kind of contradicts that.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

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.

Asker jrobertxiii Asks:
I know you're busy with the rankings, but I was wondering how cabinet positions came into existence. They aren't created in the Constitution, so is it by Executive Order or an act of Congress or something else entirely? Particularly, I'm interested in the creation of the Secretary of State. Thank you.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

This is one of those things that has never been fully interpreted by the Supreme Court and is only vaguely referred to in the Constitution in what is referred to as the “Appointments Clause”. The text of that clause, which is Article II, Section 2, states that the President “shall nominate, and, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”

What those “Departments” actually were wasn’t made specifically clear, but the common interpretation (and the one that makes the most sense) of those “Departments” is of the agencies of the federal government that exercise the power of the Executive Branch. What the “Heads of Department” were is less clear and has never been defined by the Supreme Court, but it has been taken to mean that there are principal “Officers” and “inferior Officers” within those Departments — the principal “Officers” require Senate confirmation while the “inferior Officers” do not unless Congress specifically mandates it. The principal “Officers” are not just the Secretaries of each Cabinet-level Department and Senate confirmation isn’t limited to agencies considered Cabinet-level Departments. There are nearly 1,500 positions in the federal government which require Senate confirmation after Presidential appointment.

The formation of these Departments and the reason for Cabinet Secretaries is basically, to put it really simply, because there’s a lot of damn work to do. The President is vested with all of this Executive power, but the President is just one person. The Legislative Branch has hundreds of members in elected positions and even the Supreme Court has nine members, and that’s not even counting all of the lower courts in the Judicial Branch. To use the Department of State/Secretary of State as an example since that’s the one you mentioned, the Constitution gives the President the responsibility for our country’s foreign relations. Even during George Washington’s Presidency when the size of the country and the government was small, it was obvious that the President couldn’t single-handedly administer foreign policy, manage the financial system and law enforcement/legal apparatus, and be Commander-in-Chief of the military. The President needed help, so Departments were formed and people were put in charge of those Departments.

The State Department was a no-brainer, and during the Washington Administration, it was followed by a Treasury Department (finance), War Department (defense), and Attorney General (justice). There was actually no Department of Justice until 1870. Prior to that, the Attorney General was a Presidential appointee who was responsible for prosecuting cases before the Supreme Court and as the Executive Branch’s legal authority who could give opinions and advice on the law. When it comes to the technical process of establishing a federal Department, the President usually appoints an official responsible for a specific role or advocates for the establishment of such a role and Congress passes a law creating the Department needed to support that Presidential appointee. As the government and country has grown and different technologies and industries have sprouted, new Departments have been added or have been turned into something else.

The establishment of a Department of State was obviously the most important Department to the leaders when the Presidency went into effect because of its role in supporting the President in foreign relations at a time where even some of our more cosmopolitan leaders were regarded (often quite accurately) as somewhat provincial. Foreign policy was a big concern because the United States was still recovering from a Revolutionary War which resulted in independence but required everything Americans had as well as the assistance of foreign allies (or foreign countries who were at least enemies of England). Strengthening those ties, along with building new ones, was an absolute necessity for defensive and economic reasons — for survival, basically. That’s why the Department of State was the first to be created shortly after Washington was inaugurated. At first, it was actually called the “Department of Foreign Affairs”, but Congress changed the name to the “Department of State” right before Thomas Jefferson was appointed as the first Secretary of State a couple of months later.

More Cabinet-level Departments — along with sub Cabinet-level agencies, many of which also have principal officers who require Senate confirmation following Presidential appointment — have been established throughout our history, but the Secretary of State has largely remained the most important position in the Cabinet. Like the Chief Justice, the Secretary of State is seen as first-among-equals, and was such an important and influential position that the Secretary is first in the order of precedence of members of the Cabinet and was second in line to the Presidency from 1886 until 1947. Early Secretaries of State were so influential that the position seemed to be a stepping stone to the Presidency during the first 50 years of the job’s existence with four of the first six Presidents (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams) being former Secretaries of State. Three Secretaries of State (Madison, Monroe, and J.Q. Adams) were elected to the Presidency directly from the State Department. However, only two former Secretaries of State have been elected President since 1825 — Martin Van Buren, Secretary of State under President Jackson (1829-1831) and elected President in 1836, and James Buchanan, Secretary of State under President Polk (1845-1849) and elected President in 1856 — so, if she is successful in 2016, Hillary Clinton will be the first former Secretary of State elected President in 160 years. And it won’t be for a lack of trying — former Secretaries of State who were nominated by a major party but lost a Presidential election include Henry Clay (lost three Presidential election), Daniel Webster (lost two Presidential elections), Lewis Cass, and James G. Blaine. Several others unsuccessfully sought their party’s nomination and lost or settled for the State Department after losing a Presidential election first (including William Jennings Bryan, who lost three Presidential elections).

This is way more information than jrobertxiii asked for, but I hope it answered some of your questions. 

Asker kray814 Asks:
Was the legalization of same sex marriage in Utah constitutional?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The Constitution doesn’t make any mention of marriage — whether it is heterosexual marriages or same sex marriage, so there shouldn’t be any Constitutional concerns about the institution of marriage.

On the other hand, the Constitution guarantees equal rights for citizens of the United States and equal protection of those rights under law. So, what IS unconstitutional is any action by the States to “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property” or any attempt to “make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities” of citizens. Marriage, or the choices individuals make about their own personal relationships, shouldn’t be a political issue.  It shouldn’t even be a political debate.  It’s a basic civil right that American citizens are born with, not something that a group of Americans should have to fight for.  The legalization of same sex marriage shouldn’t ever be ruled unconstitutional (and, fortunately, we’re heading in the right direction) — prohibiting that right is what doesn’t fit with the ideals of our Constitution.  It shouldn’t even have to be fought for, but Americans have had to fight for human rights in a country supposedly built on a foundation of equality and liberty for all.  And, in 2014, that battle is still raging.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Looking at Charles Carrol's Wikipedia article showed me an interesting tidbit, saying " Maryland passed a law that prohibited any man from serving in the state and national legislatures at the same time." Isn't it in the Constitution (or at least federal law) that you can't serve in state and Federal offices or am I misremembering thing?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

(Okay, I could very well be wrong about this, so if someone has better knowledge, feel free to add it in the replies.)

My understanding is that each of the states are able to set the qualifications for the members of their respective state legislatures. The federal government’s eligibility requirements apply across the board to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. But when it comes to, say, the California State Assembly or California State Senate, the State of California can set the eligibility requirements for their state legislature.

In other words, if a state allows its legislators to also serve in Congress, as long as they meet the federal eligibility requirements, they can serve at both levels. Now, understand, I’m simply saying that the states COULD allow that if that’s their prerogative. However, I believe almost all of the states have laws prohibiting most forms of dual-office holding on the federal, state, local, and municipal levels. So, while it is possible, in practice it is rarely permitted.

The Constitution sets the federal eligibility requirements and what it prohibits (the law you’re thinking of) in Article I, Section 6 is members of the House or Senate from serving in another federal office simultaneously (and vice versa). For those who watched “The West Wing”, an example of this requirement in action is when President Bartlet temporarily hands over his Presidential power via the 25th Amendment to John Goodman’s Speaker of the House character (in the show, there was a Vice Presidential vacancy, which is why power was handed to the Speaker). Before the 25th Amendment went into effect and power was temporarily transferred from Bartlet to Goodman’s character, Goodman had to resign from Congress (even though it was a temporary transfer). That’s Article I, Section 6 in action.

If you reverse it, the same thing would be required if a member of the President’s Cabinet decided to run for Senate or was appointed to a Senate vacancy by their state’s Governor. For example, if Defense Secretary Hagel wanted his old Senate seat back and got his wish, he’d have to resign as SecDef before he could take his seat.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What do you think was the most significant mistake made by the founding fathers?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

1.  Not prohibiting slavery throughout the United States.  We know that if the Founders had abolished slavery, we probably wouldn’t have had a United States, but political expediency doesn’t excuse the hypocrisy and inhumanity of allowing slavery in a nation founded on “liberty”, “freedom”, and “equality”.

2.  The Founders should have placed a notice somewhere in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution that said this:

"Attention Assholes of the Future:  This is a living document and, as such, it will and must evolve with the advancement of time and technology, growth and national maturity.  It should not be considered Gospel and held to the standards of the era in which it was created, especially over 200 years later.  It is the foundation upon which the framework of this country is built, but like any type of construction, it should be renovated, remodeled, and restructured to fit the needs of the American people and the time in which they live.  In order to sustain the ideas and ideals behind this wonderful nation, you must recognize the organic nature of this incredible document, allow it to develop and progress, and certainly not hold fast to a rigid interpretation of it since it was created in an era completely alien to yours.  Had we been able to foresee the possibility that you dumbshits would interpret is as if you were still wearing powdered wigs, stockings, and buckled shoes, we would have simplified it for you, but we didn’t because we assumed that Americans of the future wouldn’t be jackasses.  Now shake off the stupid and make us proud that we took this awesome, beautiful country from the natives who rightfully possessed it for thousands of years prior to our generous gifts of slavery, smallpox, religious fanaticism, and alcoholism."   

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you agree with term limits in both the House and Senate?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t like the idea of term limits at all, but if we’re going to have term limits for the Presidency (which, of course, we do), then I think the House and Senate should have term limits, as well.  I don’t like the fact that term limits are imposed on the President if Senators and Representatives can keep getting themselves elected (and basically wage a continuous campaign for their seat). 

I want to see a balance there, but I’d much rather see the 22nd Amendment abrogated so that Presidents can serve more than two terms.  The Founders didn’t place anything in the Constitution about term limits.  While every President for 150 years followed George Washington’s two-term tradition, it was just that — a tradition.  The 22nd Amendment was a knee-jerk reaction 65 years ago due to FDR being elected to four terms and the Democrats having what ended up being a 20-year hold on the White House. 

I think the best argument against term limits is the fact that Bill Clinton is only 66 years old, yet he’s been relegated to the sideline for what will soon be 12 years.  If not for the 22nd Amendment, Clinton could still be President today. and there are not too many people on either side of the aisle who weren’t better off during the Clinton years and wouldn’t feel confident with him at the helm  

Asker ai-jiu Asks:
Hi:-) I was reading through your post and i was wondering, if you have to be 35 at which point? Is it when you first declare you're running, when the votings of the primary take place, november 6th, or January the 20th, or is it some date completely different? Also what do you think of JFK: An unfinished life? Thanks:-)
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Well, the Presidential age of eligibility requirement has never been put to the test, Constitutionally, but my interpretation is that the President has to turn 35 before being sworn in.  So, if he were 34 on Election Day, he would still be eligible to take office as President as long as he turned 35 by Inauguration Day, January 20th.

It would be interesting to see it put to the test, however.  The age of eligibility for a United States Senator is 30 years old, according to the Constitution.  However, here’s where things get tricky: the Senate itself is the only body which can decide the qualifications for admission of its members, not the Supreme Court or judicial branch.  This has resulted in three Senators (Henry Clay, John Eaton, and Armistead Mason) serving before they turned 30 (Clay was 29 while Eaton and Mason were 28).  Those three underage Senators took office early in 19th Century, and while there is no evidence that they weren’t aware of their exact age, it wasn’t surprising for many people of that time to have no record of when or where they were actually born.

In more recent times, we’ve seen Senators elected before they were Constitutionally eligible, including Joe Biden, who was 29 years old when he was first elected in November 1972, but he turned 30 a couple weeks after Election Day and was Constitutionally eligible when he was sworn in. 

We don’t know exactly how a Constitutional test of the Presidential eligibility requirements would turn out, and as is the case with many of these “what-if” scenarios, it would probably be ugly and messy and overly partisan.  Any of the above actions are possible, but there’s also the case of U.S. Senator Rush Holt of West Virginia.  Like Biden and Clay, Holt was 29 years old when he was elected to the Senate.  Unlike Biden, Holt didn’t turn 30 before his inauguration, and, unlike Clay, the Senate didn’t seat Holt before his birthday in June 1935.  The Senate DID, however, hold Holt’s seat for him until he was old enough to occupy it.

Now, that could never happen with the Presidency because there can’t ever be an interregnum, but if a candidate was elected in November and wasn’t Constitutionally eligible to hold the office until, say, April, would he be out of luck and disqualified from that election cycle?  Would the Vice President-elect be inaugurated on January 20th and assume the office under the 25th Amendment (like the VP does when the President has surgical procedures which require anesthesia and is temporarily unable to discharge the powers of the Presidency) until the President-elect turns 35 and is Constitutionally eligible to assume office? 

There are lots of unanswered questions and “what-ifs” and at some point we’re probably going to have to answer some of them.  Believe me, I run some of these scenarios through my mind and start pulling out my hair when trying to come up with the correct answer without falling down more Constitutional rabbit holes.  It’s such a weird thing trying to form a more perfect union out of such an imperfect document.

As for the last part of your question, whether it is An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 (BOOKKINDLE), or one of his two volumes on LBJ — Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, Volume I: 1908-1960 (BOOKKINDLE) and Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, Volume II: 1961-1973 (BOOKKINDLE) — you cannot go wrong with Robert Dallek.  His recent book, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (BOOKKINDLE), is a fascinating look at two of the most influential figures of the 20th Century, particularly when it came to foreign policy and international relations.  Dallek also wrote a short, concise book, Hail to the Chief: The Making and Unmaking of American Presidents, which looks at how the Presidency has worked since McKinley modernized it at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What is your opinion on the age limit required to run for president?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t have a problem with it.  I feel comfortable when my President has some solid experience behind him.  Quite frankly, if you’re under 35 years old you probably haven’t had enough life and career experience to truly go into the Presidency ready to do the job.  It’s hard enough for Presidents who HAVE had a lot of executive or legislative experience. 

If we had a 30-year-old President, the only way he/she would be kind of ready for the White House is if they had somehow been elected Governor or to Congress when they were 16.  Even a 35-year-old President would probably be really inexperienced in comparison to other Presidents.  

By the way, when I was 18 or 21, it seemed like 30 was really old.  But, I’ll be turning 32 years old on January 20th and all I keep thinking is, “Holy shit, why are people my age allowed to even vote!” and “Sure would be nice if I finally grew up”. 

Basically, what I am saying is that as I get older I feel like my President should be older.  I haven’t learned the secret yet, so I’m hoping my President has enough years behind him to have figured it out.

Follow-up on Lincoln: Here's the commentary from Justice Joseph Story in his 1833 "Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States:"

"A very just and wholesome restraint, which cuts down at a blow a fruitful means of oppression, capable of being abused in bad times to the worst of purposes. Hitherto no suspension of the writ has ever been authorized by congress since the establishment of the constitution. It would seem, as the power is given to congress to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in cases of rebellion or invasion, that the right to judge, whether exigency had arisen, must exclusively belong to that body."

See § 1336 here: http://www.constitution.org/js/js_332.htm
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

More from hypographs on Lincoln and habeas corpus.  As I said last night, I don’t pretend to be a Constitutional scholar (I only pretend to be a Presidential scholar!), so it’s awesome that there are people in the audience who can give some educated insight on something like the debate about habeas corpus and how it is very possible that the Constitution intended for the suspension of habeas corpus a legislative rather than an executive function, which validates the criticisms of Lincoln’s possible abuses of power during the Civil War.

My opinion about Lincoln’s legacy remains unchanged.  Lincoln had to take extraconstitutional actions and without his leadership during the Civil War, this nation would not have survived.  What it would be today is a whole different story, but it certainly wouldn’t be United States.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
How do you feel about the criteria for presidency as mentioned in the Constitution?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t really have any disagreements with it.  I’m not a fan of term limits, but I understand them.  I think 35 is a good age limit and, apparently, so has history since we haven’t had a President elected who was under the age of 42.

While I am totally fine with the current requirements for the Presidency, I also wouldn’t mind some changes.  As I’ve mentioned before, I think we’d be better off with no term limits.  I also think that we’ve come to a point in our nation’s history (and in our relations with the world) that a person doesn’t need to be born in this country in order to be able to help lead it.  If the Secretary of State, Chief Justice of the United States, or Speaker of the House can be a U.S. Citizen who happened to be born originally in another country, I believe a President can be, too.

Asker bbkld Asks:
What was the Founding Fathers' motivation for barring foreign-born citizens from becoming President (ironic considering they were all British subjects at one time in their lives)? Were they trying to bar a potential Lord or Baron taking office someday and converting it to a monarchy? That's not improbable considering George III's predecessors from the House of Hanover were born in Germany and problems speaking the language of the empire they governed.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

That is a really great question, and I’m not quite sure what the answer might be.

Of course, the Founders had very strong viewpoints on foreign entanglements and neutrality.  The “natural born citizen” clause in the Constitution is vague and curious, especially since, as you mentioned, all of the Founders were British subjects.  They made sure to grandfather in a clause requiring the President to be a natural born citizen or a citizen of the United States at the time of the Constitution’s adoption.

People much smarter than me have spent decades trying to decipher the words and intentions of those who created our Constitution.  What I am doing is merely venturing a guess, but I don’t think the Founders were worried about the President being a foreigner.  I think that they were worried about the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Military being a foreigner, and the Commander-in-Chief just happens to be the President.

If the Founders had placed the Commander-in-Chief in another branch of the government or had the Commander-in-Chief of the military separate from the President, I question whether the Presidency would be barred to foreigners.  I don’t think that the Founders were as worried about a foreigner running the Government as they were worried about a foreigner running the military.

Here’s the thing, though:  eventually, this clause will be challenged and will create a Constitutional crisis.  Quite frankly, it’s amazing it hasn’t happened already.  No other office in the U.S. Government besides President and Vice President is barred to foreigners.  Furthermore, the Constitution is very cloudy about what a “natural born citizen” is.  Is it someone born within a state of the Union?  What about someone born in Puerto Rico or Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands?  They are considered U.S. citizens, right?  Could a Puerto Rican be elected President?

Plus, there’s those dumb questions about Obama’s birthplace.  Well, what if John McCain had won the 2008 election?  He was born in the Panama Canal Zone.  Sure, he was born to American citizens and he was born on an American military installation, but he wasn’t born within the United States.  Does that make him a “natural born citizen” who is eligible for the Presidency? 

Not only that, but there is the question of foreigners who might be in the Presidential line of succession.  It’s highly unlikely that something would happen to the President and Vice President simultaneously, but if it did, what would happen if the Speaker of the House was a foreigner?  There is no restriction on foreigners serving in House or Senate positions or the Cabinet.  The ranking Cabinet member in the line of succession is the Secretary of State and two of the most prominent Secretaries of State in the past 40 years were foreign-born:  Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright. 

The Presidential succession issue is bound for a crisis again in the future, and in my opinion, it will be a crisis revolving around the “natural born citizen” requirement or the fact that the president pro tempore of the United States Senate (third in line to the Presidency) is almost always the oldest member of the Senate, sometimes so old that they can barely function as a Senator, let alone as President.

Do you have any good websites or books about the US constitution, other thank wikipedia? I've been reading your blog to study the presidents for APUSH summer assignments (its really helpful!).
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’m glad that I could help with your summer assignments.  It’s nice to feel like a high-tech version of Presidential CliffsNotes.

I can’t say that I know any good websites about the United States Constitution.  I’m sure that the U.S. government actually has a pretty good website about it (maybe the National Archives or Library of Congress websites?).

As for books, Akhil Reed Amar’s America’s Constitution: A Biography is a really good book and a biography is fitting for the Constitution because it truly is a living, evolving, organic document.  

To tie it into the Presidency, Richard Labunski wrote an interesting book published in 2006 called James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights which focuses on Madison’s reversal from opposing the first ten amendments to wholeheartedly supporting it.