Right-wing gadfly Grover Norquist is proposing a Constitutional amendment that would ban the succession of elected or appointed offices from one family member to another.
“It will be ridiculous to have Mr President and Madam President in the White House,” he said. “We’re the United States of America. How can we say to President Mubarak [of Egypt], ‘You can’t hand off the presidency to your son, it’s got to be your wife’ or, ‘Hey Syria and North Korea, you’ve got to knock this stuff off and be like us’.”
This amendment would not apply to Hillary Clinton since she is not seeking to succeed her husband directly.
This is one reason the Founding Fathers made it hard to amend the Constitution; to prevent hare-brained ideas like this from becoming a part of the foundation of our laws.
Mr. Norquist is proposing to ban a practice that hasn’t even happened yet. No relative has yet to directly succeed a family member in office, and those that did a generation or so later were so far removed from their ancestor as to make the only thing they had in common was a last name. John Adams died at the age of 90 six months after his son John Quincy Adams became president; William Henry Harrison died when his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was eight years old; Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican and died thirteen years before his fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, was elected in 1932; and George H.W. Bush was the soul of moderation compared to his progeny. (I also doubt that George and Bar looked at their prodigal son in 1968 and said, “Yes, the future of the world will rest on his shoulders. We’re so proud.”) And unless you believe the tin-foil hat brigade, Hillary Clinton didn’t marry Bill Clinton because she could predict the future and know that he would one day become the president so she could then RULE THE WORLD eight years after he left office. (Some people have seen Evita once too often.)
The last time the Constitution was amended in order to limit the voting choices of the electorate, we got the 22nd Amendment, which was rammed through by the Republicans in revenge for FDR being elected four times. Predictably, once they got someone in office they worshipped, (i.e. Ronald Reagan), there was talk about repealing that “limit to democracy” as one Reaganite put it. (Some wily Democrats reminded the GOP of this when Bill Clinton was nearing the end of his second term and loved to see them recoil to the idea of a Clinton third term. Sauce for the gander, eh?)
There’s also the definition of “family.” How far up the genealogical tree are we going to go? Siblings? Children? Spouses? First cousins? Second cousin once removed? Bastard child out of Alabama? Does it rule out Barack Obama because he’s distantly related to Dick Cheney? Does it apply to blood relatives only? What about ex-wives? What if Hillary Clinton divorced Bill; could she then run? What about all of Rudy Giuliani’s ex-wives? Does that rule them out?
Mr. Norquist assumes that the American electorate is incapable of making up their own mind whether or not it’s a good idea if a son or a wife should succeed a president. That’s a remarkably interesting suggestion from someone who prides himself in being a small-government libertarian. Granted, the voters of this country have done some pretty inexplicable things, but by and large we have been able to go along without a whole lot of arbitrary meddling.
The idea of term limits, a very popular trend in the 1990’s when the Republicans were out of power and wanted some way to game the system, quickly died out when the GOP got into office and with all due hypocrisy began to back off their pledges to serve only one or two terms. Besides, as people on both the left and right have noted, the Constitution already has term limits: they’re called elections.