I found a link to this CNN.com feature on the Drudge Report. It is a list of potential Vice Presidential contenders for the 2004 Democratic ticket.
One surprising name in the list is former President Bill Clinton.
Drudge, as a poke against CNN’s article, included this quote from the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “ . . . no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of president shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.”
But, frighteningly enough, CNN.com was right and Drudge is wrong. You see, if you take a look at the Twenty-Second Amendment—which established the Presidential term limit—you’ll see that it uses fundamentally different terminology than the 12th. “No person shall be elected to the office of the president more than twice, and no person who has held the office of president, or acted as president, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected president shall be elected to the office of the president more than once” (emphasis added).
You see, Drudge overlooked the key word “elected.” President Clinton, because of the Twenty-Second Amendment, is ineligible to stand for election to the office of president. It does not, however, say that he is ineligible to be President (there are other ways to become president than by election—Presidential succession being the most obvious).
Thus, because of the crummy wording of the Twenty-Second Amendment, President Clinton would be a perfectly Constitutional choice for election to the position of Vice President. The Twelfth Amendment only requires that he not be “ineligible to the office of President.” Being ineligible for election is not equivalent to being entirely ineligible for the office.
If Clinton were to become president through the line of succession, he would not have been elected to that office and would not have violated the Twenty-Second Amendment. Because of that odd little caveat, a Vice Presidential candidacy for former President Clinton would not run afoul of the Twelfth Amendment or any other Constitutional provision that I am aware of.
I discovered this loophole in 12th grade government class, and really freaked out my teacher about it. He was convinced I was wrong, but after further research he ended up agreeing with my synopsis.
I emailed Drudge to let him know too.
It amazes me that the authors of the Twenty-Second Amendment hadn’t thought of this, and it’s a shame that CNN.com blew the lid on this loophole . . . it was supposed to become a core plot element of one of my future political thrillers! ;-)