Ain’t no­body here but us chick­ens

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

The silly sea­son is hard upon us. Lawyers, pro­fes­sors, pun­dits and politi­cians are hav­ing a high old time re­cruit­ing run­ning mates, “bal­anc­ing” tick­ets and mak­ing pre­dic­tions.

Newt Gin­grich, the for­mer speaker, doesn’t know whether he’ll run for pres­i­dent or not but he’s pretty sure he knows which Democrats will. His crys­tal ball re­veals Hil­lary Clin­ton and Barack Obama as the win­ning odd cou­ple. Or maybe it’s Barack Obama and Hil­lary Clin­ton. A crys­tal ball can cloud over in the hu­mid heat of mid­sum­mer.

Newt is surely fun­ning us. A Hil­laryObama ticket (or Obama-Hil­lary) is only slightly more likely than Harold StassenThomas E. Dewey, two top no­ta­bil­i­ties of yes­ter­year, who would be our first Al­lDead ticket. If medi­ocrity de­serves a seat on the Supreme Court, as a U.S. sen­a­tor once ar­gued in de­fend­ing a medi­ocre nom­i­nee to the court, well, in our era of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism run amok dead peo­ple de­serve a pres­i­den­tial ticket, too.

Putting two firsts to­gether — the first wo­man and the first black — is a sui­cide pact, but any­one who says the ob­vi­ous risks be­ing called a sex­ist, racist, na­tivist, bigot or at least a lout, but cor­rectly cal­cu­lat­ing the risks of Hil­lary-Obama is so easy a cave man could do it. You can be sure nei­ther Hil­lary nor Obama would choose the other. Good­ness has noth­ing to do with it.

Some ner­vous Democrats are search­ing for de­liv­er­ance in a loophole. Lawyers, who love to quib­ble and cavil, are par­tic­u­larly fond of sniff­ing out loop­holes in the law. The lan­guage of the 12th and 22nd amend­ments, defin­ing the el­i­gi­bil­ity of pres­i­dents, seems straight­for­ward enough for the rest of us, but Brian E. Gray, a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, thinks he’s found a way to get Bill, not Hil­lary, back in the White House. He ar­gues in an ed­i­to­ri­al­page es­say in the Los An­ge­les Times that the 22nd Amend­ment, adopted in the spirit of “never again” af­ter FDR won a fourth term, sets out only that “no per­son shall be elected to the of­fice of pres­i­dent more than twice.” It would not pre­vent, so this law-school ar­gu­ment goes, a for­mer two-term pres­i­dent from “serv­ing” as pres­i­dent.

But the 12th Amend­ment might: “No per­son con­sti­tu­tion­ally in­el­i­gi­ble to the of­fice of pres­i­dent shall be el­i­gi­ble to that of vice pres­i­dent.” A vice pres­i­dent has to hold the same qual­i­fi­ca­tions as a pres­i­dent, so that looks like an in­su­per­a­ble bar­rier to the re­turn of Bubba Nights in the White House pantry. But Prof. Gray says no, it’s a good idea to keep the pantry warm. Bill Clin­ton, he ar­gues, “is in­el­i­gi­ble for elec­tion to a third term, but he is con­sti­tu­tion­ally el­i­gi­ble to suc­ceed to the pres­i­dency af­ter elec­tion to the vice pres­i­dency.”

Those are the dis­puted le­gal­i­ties. More im­por­tant are the undis­puted pol­i­tics. The Democrats purely love Bubba and all his works (and warts), but would they love him enough to risk ev­ery­thing for auld lang syne? The is­sue of el­i­gi­bil­ity would dom­i­nate the cam­paign, with end­less spec­u­la­tion about how the Supreme Court would ul­ti­mately sort out what the 12th and 22nd amend­ments mean.

Ge­orge Rom­ney, once the gov­er­nor of Michi­gan and the fa­ther of Mitt, chal­lenged the Repub­li­can Party to take a sim­i­lar a risk in 1968, when he was briefly a can­di­date de­spite his birth to Amer­i­can par­ents liv­ing abroad. He ar­gued that the Con­sti­tu­tion’s re­quire­ment that a pres­i­dent be “nat­u­ral born” only meant that he be of nat­u­ral birth, not “nat­u­ral­ized,” and not nec­es­sar­ily born here. For­tu­nately for the party, Mr. Rom­ney, in a fit of an­ti­war can­dor, said he had ear­lier been “brain­washed” to sup­port the Viet­nam War. His can­di­dacy dis­solved in mock­ing laugh­ter 15 min­utes later.

Only weeks ago the Demo­cratic can­di­dates were look­ing at paint chips, ex­am­in­ing car­pet sam­ples and mea­sur­ing drap­ery fab­rics, spec­u­lat­ing about how to re­dec­o­rate the Oval Of­fice to suit Demo­cratic taste. But now doubts creep in. Maybe Iraq won’t be the catas­tro­phe of Demo­cratic dreams af­ter all. Hil­lary’s cleav­age goes only so deep, and John Ed­wards is show­ing wrin­kles and cel­lulite. Obama imag­ined hit­ting a home run with his in­vi­ta­tion to tyrants and despots for tea and in­vad­ing Pak­istan, but he ac­tu­ally hit only weak pop­ups to third base. Find­ing a loophole to slip Bubba through is the latest Demo­cratic sure thing. Not much to write home about.

Wesley Pruden is ed­i­tor in chief of The Times.

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