Do you share with me a deep sense that we haven’t spent nearly enough time covering the 2016 presidential race?
Oh, sure, Nexis tells is that there have been 520 stories written between January and March, compared with 176 stories at this time four years ago.
OK, the National Journal looked at TV coverage, and found that there were 69 mentions between January and March on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, and the PBS New Hour, compared with 31 in 2008 and just four in 2000.
And yes, the “Big Four” newspapers—The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today—have doubled their coverage compared with four years ago. But really: Is that the best our media can do, with barely 900 days remaining in what the Times and others have described as the “waning days” of Obama’s second term?
Of course not. What an enterprising journalist must do is to follow the commands of the cable news networks: “Lean Forward” all the way past the 2014 midterm elections that are, in fact, on the horizon, and “Go There” to the elections that begin a scant 20 months from now. Further, freed from the constraints of any remotely relevant information, a truly courageous political writer must bypass the tedious business of waiting for anyone to vote, and navigate the HOV lane of speculation, where what matters is conjecture of the boldest possible reach.
In that spirit, I offer my fact-free analysis of the real question we should be looking at right now:
Hillary Clinton’s running mate.
We did in fact have a vice president who served under two different presidents. Thomas Jefferson in his second term and James Madison in his first term had the same No. 2 man.
The ideal candidate would be someone clearly equipped by experience to handle the presidency at a moment’s notice, and who was held in high esteem by the public; maybe even someone who exemplified a time when Americans felt better about their country’s prospects.
By that measure, there is at first glance one obvious choice: Bill Clinton.
He would be by far the most clearly qualified candidate for the job. More than two-thirds of Americans look on him favorably, and last year, 55 percent told Gallup they saw Clinton as an outstanding or above-average president.
And there is a precedent for such a ticket: In 1980, Ronald Reagan spent much of his time at the GOP convention negotiating with emissaries of former President Gerald Ford, to see if he would accept vice-presidential nomination. In the end, he deemed the cost too high, as Ford’s people apparently demanded full control over the domestic and foreign policy decision-making, leaving Reagan to clear brush and ride horses.
Nor is residency an issue. While the 12th Amendment would forbid New York electors from voting for both New Yorkers on a national ticket, a simple move by Bill would solve that problem. (That’s what Dick Cheney did in 2000 when he returned to Wyoming from Texas.)
There is, however, a more serious obstacle. While the 22nd Amendment, limiting presidents to two elected terms, makes no mention of the vice president, the 12th Amendment, adopted in 1804, says that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of president shall be eligible to that of vice president of the United States.” Legal scholars have had a field day with this clause, because the 22nd Amendment forbids two-termers from being elected to the presidency. What if he became Speaker of the House, and succeeded to the office?
For all of the ambiguity, and the opportunity for legal scholars to avoid hard physical labor by being paid to think about these things, the confusion is, sadly, enough to leave Bill Clinton out of the equation. Hillary Clinton’s campaign would find itself battling election officials who would move to strike Bill from the ballot in state after state.
So if not Bill Clinton, who? The question just about answers itself:
He may not have quite the political skills of Bill Clinton—see: “understatement, massive”—but he did serve eight years in an administration whose economic record is now seen as almost astonishing. (Was the big debate in 2000 really about “What are we going to do with trillions in surpluses?”) He is clearly eligible for the job, since the 22nd Amendment says nothing about how many terms a vice president may serve.
Second, in his years in private life, Gore has become a very wealthy man; nearly as wealthy, apparently, as Mitt Romney. This means that, under our election laws as shredded—uh, interpreted—by the Supreme Court, he could contribute limitless sums of money to his own and Hillary’s campaign.
And history itself offers both a lesson and a wink and a nod to the idea. We did in fact have a vice president who served under two different presidents. Thomas Jefferson in his second term and James Madison in his first term had the same No. 2 man:
Clinton. George Clinton.
One last, urgent point: If you have taken what I have written seriously, I urge you to apply for the Emergency Treatment Program offered by the Dick Morris Political Institute for Premature Evaluation.