As Al Gore searches for a running mate, various pundits–most recently Thomas Friedman of the New York Times–have facetiously suggested adding Bill Clinton to the ticket. If a Gore-Clinton ticket won, could Clinton legally assume the office of vice president?
Probably so. The 12th Amendment to the Constitution does say that no one who is “constitutionally ineligible to the office of President” can serve as vice president. And clearly Clinton is ineligible to be elected president again: The 22nd Amendment says unequivocally that “no person shall be elected to the office of President more than twice.” But a plausible case could be made that a two-termer could regain the presidency via means other than an election–say, becoming vice president then taking over when the president is incapacitated. Clinton could also run for the House and then be elected speaker, which would put him in line for the presidency. Cabinet members are in the line of succession as well. [Editor’s note: For more on the possibility of a Clinton vice presidency, see this “Press Box” item.]
The Supreme Court would decide whether to hear any constitutional challenges to a Clinton vice presidency. But the court generally has been reluctant to rule on what it considers political matters, so in the unlikely event that Gore picked Clinton, it might well let the voters decide.
Explainer thanks Columbia University history professor Alan Brinkley.