Hillary Clinton says Bill for Veep has 'crossed her mind.' Legal?

There is a case to be made that Bill Clinton under the Constitution is perfectly eligible to be VP.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at Georgetown University in Washington in April.

Hillary Clinton says she’s thought about putting hubby Bill on her ticket as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate.

In an interview with the syndicated TV program “Extra,” Mrs. Clinton said that a Clinton/Clinton ticket has “crossed her mind.”

“He would be good, but he’s not eligible, under the Constitution,” she said. “He has served his two terms and I think the argument would be as vice president it would not be possible for him to ever succeed to the [presidency] – at least that’s what I’ve been told.”

Here’s our argument – she’s been told wrong. Or she’s not imparting the full legal story. Because there is a good case to be made that Bill Clinton under the Constitution is perfectly eligible to be VP.

At issue here is how two constitutional amendments fit together. The 12th Amendment says, in essence, that you can’t be vice president if you’re ineligible to be president. And the key part of the 22nd Amendment says this: “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.”

See the loophole? If a VP steps up to the presidency, they’re not elected. It’s automatic, in case of an unforeseen tragedy.

“If this view is correct, then Clinton is not ‘constitutionally ineligible to the office of president,’ and is not barred by the 12th Amendment from being elected vice president,” wrote attorney Scott Gant and political scientist Bruce Peabody on the Clinton/Clinton question in 2006.

Bill Clinton’s probably figured this out. His parsing of the law is pretty narrow, remember. He famously quibbled over the definition of “is” in grand jury testimony on the Monica Lewinsky case.

But wishes aren’t horses and “can” doesn’t mean “should.” While Bill remains pretty popular, that’s because he’s an ex-president, not a current candidate. The second he stepped back into the arena, those poll numbers would start to decline.

And the drama the ex-president might generate would threaten to overshadow the top of the ticket. Given his skill and enthusiasm for campaigning he’d probably out-draw his wife, which would not be a good thing. And Republicans would be apoplectic. They’d unite in a heartbeat. A Clinton/Clinton ticket might even bring together Donald Trump and Jeb Bush.

Of course, Hillary was probably joking when she mentioned Bill in this context. She knows it’s a political nonstarter. And maybe she realizes that there’s a more experienced VP choice staring her in the face: Joe Biden. Naming him now might defuse his presidential ambitions. And there’s no constitutional bar to a three-term VP.

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