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June 24, 2005
Which Clinton Will Run In 2008?

CQ reader Retired Military points out an effort that has gone pretty much unnoticed for the past four months; it's not breaking news, but it is curious. In February, House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer introduced a Constitutional amendment to repeal the 22nd Amendment, co-sponsored by Berman (D-CA), Pallone (D-NJ), Sabo (D-MN) and oddly enough, Sensenbrenner (R-WI). For those who don't have their Robert Byrd Pocket Constitution with them ("Don't leave the House without it"), the 22nd Amendment put term limits on the presidency.

Why did four Democrats, including the House whip, decide to dump the 22nd amendment? Here's Hoyer's explanation:

We do not have to rely on rigid constitutional standards to hold our Presidents accountable. Sufficient power resides in the Congress and the Judiciary to protect our country from tyranny. ...

Furthermore, a lame duck President serving in his second term is less effective dealing with the Congress and the bureaucracy than a President should be. I do not believe that the people want a popularly chosen President who will be weakened in a second term. The removal of the President from politics as prescribed by the 22nd Amendment has the effect of removing the President from the accountability to political forces that come to bear during regular elections every four years. ...

I believe the repeal of the 22nd Amendment will restore power to the people themselves and make our Constitution more democratic.

Actually, I find that argument rather compelling. If a lack of term limits creates a constant pressure for campaigning and fund-raising, at least that gets somewhat balanced by accountability for those seeking re-election. Once having won the final term of office, especially for an executive, the accountability that a free electorate provides gets severely reduced and the impulse for autocratic behavior comes under less control, at least internally. Hoyer also provides a couple of quotes from the founding fathers, notably Hamilton and Jefferson, to support his effort.

But why bring this up now? Does Hoyer and his fellow Democrats want to see George Bush run for a third term? Not exactly:

Under the resolution I offer today, President Bush would not be eligible to run for a third term. However, the American people would have restored to themselves and future generations an essential democratic privilege to elect who they choose in the future.

However, if you read the proposal, Hoyer is incorrect. Nothing in the repealing amendment excludes the current president, although it may take longer than three years for it to get ratified -- assuming it ever makes it through Congress. And that means others who have held the office for two terms could become eligible for a third term as well. Right now, it's under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee's Constitution subcommittee.

Political handicappers have debated whether Hillary has enough support to successfully win the Democratic nomination. Maybe we're talking about the wrong Clinton.

UPDATE: The Anchoress has another theory, which hearkens back to the "two for the price of one" sales pitch of 1992. It's fanciful, of course ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 24, 2005 5:39 PM

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