Everybody thinks he has a running mate for John Kerry, but the Democratic pool is so shallow that some of the Democrats are trying to figure out a way to choose someone who isn’t even eligible.
A law professor at New York University thinks he has found a winning loophole in the 22nd Amendment, which declares that “no person shall be elected president more than twice.” He wants to bring back Bill Clinton for a third term, and then find a way to make Mr. Kerry disappear.
“The first objection, the constitutional one,” writes Stephen Gillers in the New York Times, “can be disposed of easily. The Constitution does not prevent Mr. Clinton from running for vice president.” (This is the way lawyers think, how to dispose of the Constitution easily.)
There is, however, the technicality of the 12th Amendment, which anyone but a law professor could find easily. This amendment, ratified in 1804, long before the Supreme Court discovered “penumbras” lurking in print so fine no one else could see them, decrees that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.” The intent of the amendments seems clear enough, and even if he wanted the man from Hope as his running mate, Mr. Kerry couldn’t risk sending the constitutional questions and the election to the Supreme Court to sort out again.
The prospects after Bill Clinton fade quickly. John Edwards, the trial lawyer who ran for president when he took a poll and learned that he couldn’t be re-elected to the U.S. Senate, is the favorite of the reporters covering him, mostly because they don’t want to be called back to the office to cover a congressional campaign, City Hall or freight-car loadings at the Commerce Department.
Mr. Edwards is great at blather, as good defense lawyers who make a living keeping criminals on the street have to be. But he proved that you don’t win nominations by winning the Pundit Primary, and it’s difficult to see what he could bring to a Kerry ticket. He struck out in the South, failing miserably to win a single state but his own native South Carolina, where the majority no longer votes in Democratic primaries. His carefully enhanced Southern accent did him no good: When a Southerner, if Mr. Edwards doesn’t mind being called one, can’t beat a Massachusetts Yankee in Georgia it probably means that Southerners gag at the sight and scent of him.
No Democrat has ever been elected president without carrying several of the Southern states. No doubt someday a Democrat will do it, but the party is brave indeed if it attempts to break this barrier with the most liberal senator on the Hill, and from Massachusetts to boot.
Southerners have a bred in the bone aversion to Massachusetts, even when they don’t know exactly why, regarding Yankees as purveyors of the double standard, born with no sense of shame for trying to teach folks one way while showing them another. Many a Southerner puts the original wellspring of bigotry in the precincts of the witchburners, greedy missionaries and preachers of a sour piety who force cultural perversions on the rest of us in the name of virtue, eager to keep everyone else in the missionary position.
Harsh, to be sure. But it’s the caution that the senator will need stronger medicine than a trial lawyer made of a little grit and a lot of gas can conjure in the land of cotton, catfish, sultry nights and memories as long as Bowie knives.
Some Democrats still think Sen. Bob Graham of Florida would add pizzazz and panache to the ticket, which is a mystery to everyone else. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana gets an occasional mention, but two senators might be at least one senator too many. If any governor has come to mind, nobody remembers who.
The only senator with star power is Hillary, of course, but it’s difficult to see how John Kerry, even with the chestful of medals he only pretended to throw away, would agree to play second fiddle to his second fiddle. A Kerry-Hillary ticket would be the strangest mating this side of the Suwannee River, where “love bugs” render the lowlands all but uninhabitable for part of the year. The dynamic love bugs, locked in a flying embrace with the female in control and the male riding backwards, splatter into automobile windshields by the billions. The male bug always dies first. The French-looking war hero would think he was guiding his administration, but the lady would know better. Oh, but what a fine splatter they would make.
Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.