March 11, 2004
Worst Law Professor Ever
Stephen Gillers is a law professor at New York University and any students unfortunate enough to find themselves under his tutelage should transfer. Fast.
Earlier this month, the New York Times and several other newspapers ran an op-ed column in which Gillers touted Bill Clinton as the ideal running mate for John Kerry. In a constitutional limbo dance, Gillers claims that even though Clinton is prevented by the 22nd Amendment from being elected president again, he is still eligible to be elected vice president. Insists Gillers:
The first objection, the constitutional one, can be disposed of easily. The Constitution does not prevent Clinton from running for vice president. The 22nd Amendment, which became effective in 1951, begins: "No person shall be elected to the office of the president more than twice." No problem. Bill Clinton would be running for vice president, not president. Scholars and judges can debate how loosely constitutional language should be interpreted, but one need not be a strict constructionist to find this language clear beyond dispute. Bill Clinton cannot be elected president, but nothing stops him from being elected vice president. True, if Clinton were vice president he would be in line for the presidency. But Clinton would succeed Kerry not by election, which the amendment forbids, but through Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which provides that if a president dies, resigns or is removed from office, his powers "shall devolve on the vice president." The 22nd Amendment would not prevent this succession. So much for the constitutional obstacles.
The smug Gillers is obviously proud of himself. But his fetish for Bill Clinton has blinded him to the 12th Amendment.
Adopted in the aftermath of Aaron Burr's brazen attempt to steal the 1800 presidential election, the 12th Amendment establishes the electoral process by which a presidential candidate runs with a vice presidential candidate. It also defines the conditions under which the House of Representatives may choose the president.
But it's the last sentence of the 12th Amendment that rains on "Professor" Gillers' parade. It mandates that "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States." In case Gillers doesn't understand that, it means that if you're not eligible to be president then you're not eligble to be vice president.
Because of the 22nd Amendment, Bill Clinton is ineligible to the office of president. And because of the 12th Amendment, Bill Clinton is ineligible to the office of vice president.
The 12th Amendment was written to prevent sneaks from undermining the Constitution.
Sneaks like Aaron Burr. And Stephen Gillers.
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