The Dumbest Op-Ed You’ll Read All Week

Former Virginia Democratic Party head Paul Goldman and George Mason Professor Mark Rozell make an argument for an Obama-Clinton ticket in 2012, but not the Clinton you’re probably thinking of:

Washington’s insiders say some Democrats involved in the 2012 campaign may want to drop loyal Vice President Joe Biden for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The buzz claims an Obama-Clinton ticket is the party’s best hope for retaining the White House.

We like Joe and respect Hillary. But if President Barack Obama decides to follow the path of his favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, and change running mates, the insiders are buzzing about the wrong Clinton.

That’s right: a Barack-Bubba ticket is the way to go. True, if elected, Bill Clinton would become our first vegetarian veep — since he’s no longer the fast-food guy. Can a real Bubba eat tofu? And yes, he would be the first former president to hold the job, too.

Now, you’re probably thinking the same thing anyone would after reading this — what about the 22nd Amendment?  Under that Amendment, Clinton is barred from being elected President again, as is anyone else who has served two terms or who was elevated to the Presidency with more than two years left in a term and then re-elected. Goldman and Rozell, however, come up with a convoluted theory to get around this problem:

But what happens if someone, like Clinton, is elected twice — and then wants to run for vice president? The “twice-elected and done” maxim left a back-end loophole. The amendment clearly states that a two-term president is ineligible to be elected again. It says nothing about being elevated to the office again through succession.

The idea of the once-most powerful person in the world serving in an office that John Nance Garner, FDR’s vice president, reportedly said wasn’t worth a “pitcher of warm piss” defied the logic for the Congress members who sent the 22nd Amendment to the states for ratification.

The only constitutional requirement for vice presidential candidates is that they be eligible for president, so the position has the same age and citizenship requirements. A vice president who occupies the Oval Office because of the death or incapacity of the president isn’t legally “elected;” rather, that person is elevated by operation of law. Thus, Clinton is constitutionally eligible to serve again in the Oval Office.

Their argument falls apart, though, on the rocks of the 12th Amendment:

But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

Clinton is ineligible to serve as President by operation of the 22nd Amendment. Therefore, he’s ineligible to be Vice-President. It’s fairly obvious that the loophole that Goldman and Rozell point to was intended to cover those situations where a Vice-Presidents succeeds to the President within the first 23 months of a Presidency, not a President who has already served two full terms and now tries to run for Vice-President. That second situation is clearly barred by the 12th Amendment.

As for the policy arguments in favor of this idea, they are such complete nonsense that they don’t even deserve to be addressed. Bill Clinton isn’t going to be Obama’s ru nning mate and Obama isn’t going to ask him. In fact, absent Joe Biden voluntarily stepping aside, and why would he, all this talk about a change in the Democratic ticket in 2012 is utter nonsense.

What does this prove? That Politico will slap “Opinion” on the most idiotic thing written, and publish it, that’s about it.

H/T: Frequent commenter Jay Tea at Wizbang

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Politicians, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Idle time, idle minds.

  2. legion says:

    Clinton is ineligible to serve as President by operation of the 22nd Amendment. Therefore, he’s ineligible to be Vice-President.

    I disagree… the 22nd only uses the term “elected”. There’s still no technical reason he can’t succeed to the Presidency – indeed, if there was, then no previously-elected POTUS could ever serve a future administration in any position in the Constitutional chain-of-command (Senate Pro Tem, Speaker, etc.).

    That said, I do agree that it’s a really dumb idea.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @legion: I think the 12th Amendment kills it: He’s not eligible to be elected president, so he’s therefore ineligible to be elected vice president. He’s certainly eligible, though, to become Speaker of the House [he’d have to get elected to the House first, of course] or Secretary of Defense, each of which would put him high in the line of succession, and become president again through the back door of extreme tragedy.

  4. @legion:

    They could serve in the Administration, they would just be skipped over in the line of succession. For example, when Madeline Albright became Clinton’s Secretary of State, the 4th person in the line of succession became Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers because Albright, who had been born in Czechoslovakia, was ineligible to be President.

  5. Didn’t Politico just have to let someone go for plagiarizing last week? Not a good week for those guys.

  6. Chrstopher,,

    Yea, they did. I like some of the reporters over there — Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin do good work — but sometimes they just publish crap.

  7. Ernieyeball says:

    I vaguely remember a similar proposal during the 1980 Republican convention when former President Ford was being considered for VP running with RR. Since Ford was never elected to the Federal Executive he may have been eligible for VP.
    What I remember as “odd” about the proposal was the notion of a “co-Presidency”.
    Per Freebase and WikiP: “Ford asked for certain powers and prerogatives that has been described as making Ford a co-president.”
    Wish I could remember who described it as such. Talking Heads? Republican Pols of the day?

    Maybe they were thinking about this guy:
    Mr. RANDOLPH strenuously opposed a unity in the Executive magistracy. He regarded it as the foetus of monarchy. We had he said no motive to be governed by the British Governmt. as our prototype. He did not mean however to throw censure on that Excellent fabric. If we were in a situation to copy it he did not know that he should be opposed to it; but the fixt genius of the people of America required a different form of Government. He could not see why the great requisites for the Executive department, vigor, despatch & responsibility could not be found in three men, as well as in one man. The Executive ought to be independent. It ought therefore in order to support its independence to consist of more than one.
    -Madison’s Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention Jun 1, 1787

  8. Kylopod says:

    >Since Ford was never elected to the Federal Executive he may have been eligible for VP.

    It was irrelevant whether Ford had been elected or not–he’d only been president for a little over two years. The limit in the 22nd Amendment is 10 years.

  9. Kylopod says:

    Here’s another dumb exercise: why doesn’t Obama select Al Gore as his running mate? There are no prohibitions on a vp serving more than 8 years. Gore has both centrist cred and liberal admiration. It will cause the right’s heads to explode, while the Obama team can devote their second term to “Jobs, and the environment.” And if Perry is the GOP’s nominee, Gore can say, “I knew Rick Perry. Rick Perry was a friend of mine. Gov. Perry, you’re no Rick Perry.”

  10. Murray says:

    Uh?

  11. PD Shaw says:

    Here is a law review article that suggests Clinton could run again as V.P. and then Obama could step aside:

    we have suggested that a President nearing the end of his or her second term and determined to stay in office might run as Vice President with the idea that the President-elect would step aside, allowing the already twice-elected President (and Vice President-elect) to serve a third term without running afoul of the Twenty-Second Amendment’s bar on reelection

    I’m not persuaded — in particular this disturbing hypothetical is a strong indictment that this interpretation of the Constitution would easily render the 22nd Amendment a nullity.

    I also find the discussion of the 12th Amendment dismissive, and in particular, lacking any recognition that with the Presidency of John Tyler upon the death of W.H. Harrison, the notion of the Vice President as merely the “acting President” was rejected.

  12. Tlaloc says:

    I’m willing to wager that much dumber things will be said this week in editorials. Jonah Goldberg alone will probably say six dumber things before the week is out.

  13. legion says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Ah, I’d forgotten about the citizenship issue. Good point.

  14. MBunge says:

    You know, every time I think the GOP is going a little overboard with its worship of Ronald Reagan, I’m reminded of the weird Democratic and liberal fetish for Bill Clinton. At least Reagan was a good thing for the Republican Party. Bill Clinton did more damage to Democratic politicians and the liberal policy agenda than any other figure in the last 30 years, yet because he got blown by an intern he’s elevated to demigod status.

    Mike

  15. Kylopod says:

    >yet because he got blown by an intern he’s elevated to demigod status.

    I don’t think that’s quite it. I think it amounts to the fact that liberals are tired of being losers, and when they look back at the Clinton years they perceive it as an oasis of Democratic winning in a desert of liberal losses going back at least to Carter. Liberals weren’t so happy with Clinton when he was actually president, but many of them have adopted a willful amnesia about those years, choosing to remember the peace and prosperity while forgetting about things like DADT and welfare reform, not to mention his somewhat rocky governance.

    In some ways, this isn’t all that different from the conservative response to Reagan. Reagan didn’t have the demigod status when he was actually president; he disappointed many conservatives at the time on things like his appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court, his seemingly giving a cold-shoulder to the pro-life movement, and his tax increases. His elevation to Saint Ronnie occurred in the ’90s as he disappeared from public life following his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I do agree that Reagan did more substantively for conservatives than Clinton did for liberals, but both presidents were admired a lot more in hindsight than while in office.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    I guess we see what happens when professors have late night dorm sessions….

  17. Jay Tea says:

    The last sentence of the 12th Amendment is the killer for this notion:

    But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

    Not “be elected,” “be.”

    Thanks for the hat tip, Doug.

    J.

  18. MBunge says:

    @Kylopod: “they look back at the Clinton years they perceive it as an oasis of Democratic winning in a desert of liberal losses going back at least to Carter.”

    Yeah, but here’s the thing. I can appreciate the whole “peace and prosperity” nostalgia effect, but Clinton never got 50% of the vote when running for President and led the Democratic Party to its greatest electoral defeat in 40 years. Reagan was at least the vanguard of the GOP rise to political power. Clinton is like the guy who kicked the final clod of dirt on Democratic dominance of American politics. Yet people have totally bought into the Clinton cult of personality. I can understand that if you were a kid during that time, but the folks making these suggestions about Bill and Hilary now weren’t kids in the 90s.

    Mike

  19. Kylopod says:

    >but Clinton never got 50% of the vote when running for President

    Why should that matter when it comes to whether liberals regard him as a hero? Winning means making it to the Oval Office and staying there as long as the Constitution allows. If the Bush years didn’t teach us that, what else could?

    >and led the Democratic Party to its greatest electoral defeat in 40 years.

    What are you referring to? Clinton won fair and square both times, and since then Democrats experienced only two very narrow defeats, the first one highly questionable. The Dems so far haven’t come close to Carter’s 1980 defeat (which was only twenty years, not forty, before Gore’s failed 2000 bid). You’ve lost me.

  20. Tlaloc says:

    You know, every time I think the GOP is going a little overboard with its worship of Ronald Reagan, I’m reminded of the weird Democratic and liberal fetish for Bill Clinton.

    No. Not even. There is nothing even remotely close on the left to the ridiculous deification of Reagan on the right. Look at almost any piece of paper printed by the RNC and you have about a 50% chance of Reagan showing up. Try reading any righty forum and you’ll find reagan invoked multiple times per thread and often in the signatures of at least a quarter of the posters.

    It’s simply unreal how intensely idolized the man is by a modern right that would never vote for him were he running today.

  21. Kylopod says:

    @Tlaloc: I agree with you 100%. I may not have been clear on that in my response to MBunge. There is nothing on the left even remotely comparable to the Reagan worship on the right. There’s an entire book about how it all started, and I recommend it: it’s called Tear Down this Myth by Will Bunch. He examines the phenomenon thoroughly and documents how it emerged long after Reagan’s presidency.

    What I’m seeing with Clinton and liberals is more a kind of “good old days” attitude in response to Obama’s decline in the polls and the very real prospect that he could be a one-term president. By no means is this universal among liberals, and it’s not as if liberals go around quoting Saint Willie’s Eleventh Commandment or suggesting that he be carved into Mount Rushmore. Indeed, despite the amnesia I described, the left still makes plenty of reminders of the policies they loathed during his administration, not the least of which is DADT.

  22. Tano says:

    Clinton is ineligible to serve as President by operation of the 22nd Amendment.

    I have to agree with Legion here. The wording is clear. Bubba cannot be elected President. The amendment says nothing about him being unable to serve as President.

    JJ: He’s not eligible to be elected president, so he’s therefore ineligible to be elected vice president.

    The amendment makes no such association. It says only that no one ineligible to serve as President can serve as VP. Clinton is not ineligible to serve as President, only to be elected President.

    Nonetheless, a truly dumb idea.

  23. Jay Tea says:

    @Tano: Hello. 12th Amendment, anyone? No nonsense about “elected” in that one. Clinton can’t be veep. Period.

    J.

  24. MBunge says:

    @Kylopod: “What are you referring to?”

    Uh…does 1994 ring a bell? How about the fact that the Democratic Party, at virtually every level of government, was in worse shape when Bill Clinton left office than before he was elected? I suppose you can say he just sped up a process that was already underway, but packing 20 or 25 years of losses into less than a decade isn’t really that much of an improvement.

    Mike

  25. MBunge says:

    @Kylopod: “the left still makes plenty of reminders of the policies they loathed during his administration, not the least of which is DADT.”

    No, they don’t. Barack Obama got more crap from liberals for ending DADT than Bill Clinton has ever received for creating it in the first place.

    Mike

  26. Rick Almeida says:

    To be fair, until Gregg Easterbrook writes a column, we really can’t pick this week’s winner.

  27. Kylopod says:

    >Uh…does 1994 ring a bell?

    Ah… But that wasn’t necessarily Clinton’s doing. You could make a case that Clinton contributed to it with sloppy governance, but then it’s striking that the most often cited example of what he did wrong in his first two years was the failure of a health-care reform plan, when 16 years later the passage of one by another Democratic president would be followed by virtually the same electoral drubbing.

    >How about the fact that the Democratic Party, at virtually every level of government, was in worse shape when Bill Clinton left office than before he was elected?

    But that’s part of the amnesia I talked about. In 1994, Clinton was anything but a hero among liberals. Six years later when the country was enjoying an economic boom and Clinton had managed to survive a series of highly partisan investigations ending in his impeachment, leading his popularity to surge and the Republicans to lose seats in the second midterm (which hadn’t happened for an out-party since 1822), many liberals were apparently ready to forgive and forget.

    >Barack Obama got more crap from liberals for ending DADT than Bill Clinton has ever received for creating it in the first place.

    That’s not what I remember. Obama took a lot of crap–and rightly so–for very nearly failing to end DADT. Once he succeeded, however, most liberals did nothing but celebrate. You’ll find the occasional liberal who still refuses to give Obama credit for this accomplishment, or criticizes the manner in which he went about it, but that is in no way, shape, or form comparable to the wide liberal disappointment at Clinton after the enactment of DADT, which contributed heavily to his reputation as a waffler (an image popularized by the liberal Gary Trudeau in Doonesbury). Even though there was no DailyKos or HuffPost or MSNBC to drum the grievances of the left back then, liberal disappointment in Clinton was very audible.

  28. Kylopod says:

    One other thing–though the makeup of Congress for Republicans didn’t suffer as much under Reagan as for Democrats under Clinton, he took what was regarded at the time as a fairly brutal beating in his two midterms. In 1982, they lost 26 seats, which may seem mild compared to the 54 Clinton lost or the 63 Obama lost, but we need to keep in mind that the GOP never had control of Congress during Reagan’s presidency, and there were far fewer seats to defend. When Reagan first entered office, Republicans had just captured the Senate for the first time since 1954, and they gained 34 seats in the House giving them a conservative if not Republican dominance (due to many conservative Southern Democrats). They lost that dominance in 1982 and lost the Senate in 1986.