April 23, 2014
By John Zogby
There is plenty of speculation today about another Bush/Clinton presidential contest in 2016 – of course meaning Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton. That is, of course, legitimate news. Hillary has lived her entire life preparing for this moment and Jeb was the one from his generation anointed by his elders to run, only to be denied the prize by his interloping big brother.
So the waters are being tested with donors, friendly and gullible reporters, and power breakfasts in the Beltway. Make no mistake about it: Hillary and Jeb are very capable and probably the best prepared in their respective parties to actually be the 45th President of the United States. Truth be told, I have met with Hillary several times and like her very much. I have briefly met Jeb but watched him speak on numerous occasions. He seems to be a very competent and likable chap.
But there is also something very wrong about all of this. Americans do not like dynasties in politics. This is not baseball or NASCAR. Two iconic fathers who were President (John Adams and George H.W. Bush) were followed by sons widely regarded as failures in the White House. One grandfather, William Henry Harrison, who was only President for 41 days – and who never really "served" because he became deathly ill at his Inauguration – was followed by a grandson, Benjamin, who is barely remembered. The Roosevelts hardly shared more than a last name and the Kennedys were victims of tragedy.
But it isn't only that. Americans also like a level playing field. In a country with 312 million people, are we only left with Bushes and Clintons to aspire to lead us? With all respect to Jeb, do we really want to relive the fiasco election of 2000 where his own state of Florida provided the "winning" margin for his own brother? And with all respect to Hillary, do we really want to go through the Bill Clinton affairs, the presidential pardons, and the missing White House china again? Do we also want to have all too familiar brothers, mothers, children, and cousins out shilling for family – and not simply and graciously being part of history and legacy?
We have only amended the Constitution 27 times since 1791. Three of those times provided for remedies to problems of Presidential succession. The 12th Amendment mandated separate ballots in the Electoral College for President and Vice-President following the botched election of 1800. The 22nd Amendment legally limited a President to two terms following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected to four terms. Every other President before him had exercised personal restraint on the question. And the 25th Amendment allowed a President to nominate a Vice-President in case of a vacancy in the position-this following the death of John F. Kennedy and the accession of Lyndon B. Johnson. It came just in time for the Watergate Scandal and the forced resignation of Spiro Agnew.
So I modestly propose a new amendment – the White House Family Leave Amendment – which means that no member of an immediate or extended family of a former President of the United States can run or serve in the position for, let's say, 100 years. In other words, when a President leaves the White House, he or she and their family LEAVE THE WHITE HOUSE. It would allow for a fresh start, prevent the reopening of old wounds, allow the nation to either heal or bask in glory, and show the world that the U.S. is a nation with a large talent pool.
I cherish the fact that we have had to change the Constitution so few times in 225 years. On second thought, why don't players with real character just show restraint, take themselves out of the race, and let us all move on?