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
President Bill Clinton, on missing Richard Nixon’s advice after his death, April 29, 1994.
Unlike his predecessors and despite their political differences, Clinton frequently sought out Nixon’s counsel, particularly on foreign policy, early in his Presidency and up until Nixon’s death a week before this quote.