The Dual Presidency
David Broder of the Washington Post warns about two fears the Democrats must allay in 2008: immigration and the "dual presidency".
As the Democratic presidential race finally gets down to brass tacks, two issues are becoming paramount. But only one of them is clearly on the table.
That is the issue of illegal immigration. A very smart Democrat, a veteran of the Clinton administration, told me that he expects it to be a key part of any Republican campaign and that he is worried about his party's ability to respond.
Plain sailing so far. But David Broder's friend had more to whisper in his ear.
the second, and largely unspoken, issue identified by my friend from the Clinton administration [was] the two-headed campaign and the prospect of a dual presidency.
As my friend says, "there is nothing in American constitutional or political theory to account for the role of a former president, still energetic and active and full of ideas, occupying the White House with the current president." ...
No one who has read or studied the large literature of memoirs and biographies of the Clintons and their circle can doubt the intimacy and the mutual dependence of their political and personal partnership.
No one can reasonably expect that partnership to end should Hillary Clinton be elected president. But the country must decide whether it is comfortable with such a sharing of the power and authority of the highest office in the land.
It is a difficult question for any of the Democratic rivals to raise. But it lingers, even if unasked.
Just because it's unasked by the Democratic rivals doesn't mean its unasked. The prospect of that "dual presidency" probably drives a great deal of the opposition to Hillary within the Democratic party itself. It's part of the desire to emancipate the party from the clutches of the Clintons. Of which there are two.
In the background and somewhat more diffuse is another disturbing paradigm. If Hillary is elected and possibily re-elected, either a Clinton or a Bush will have occupied the Presidency for 24 years. A human generation.
An example of how complicated the interactions in a "dual presidency" might be were intimidated by an ABC News story: "Hillary Clinton Takes Cash From Recipients of Husband's Controversial Pardons".
Three recipients of controversial 11th-hour pardons issued by former President Bill Clinton in January 2001 have donated thousands of dollars to the presidential campaign of his wife, Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., according to campaign finance records examined by ABC News, in what some good government groups said created an appearance of impropriety.
From one point of view, Hillary Rodham Clinton and William Jefferson Clinton are two separate individuals. Why should Hillary be hindered by the actions of William? After all, she didn't pardon them. It wasn't something she did. Why should she be held liable or be disadvantaged for something somebody else did?
That argument may be fine in the abstract. In most cases people disapprove of collective punishment. They don't, for example, imprison the Mrs. Osama Bin Laden (the several) for something Osama Bin Laden did. Right? But whatever the apparent merits of that argument, most people might believe in the existence of a joint benefit in this case. That is, that Bill and Hillary are partners in some real sense, not simply in marriage but in a political enterprise. And just as the assets of partners are held liable in a partnership there might be some justification for thinking the political fortunes of Hillary must share liability with Bill's.
"It's not illegal," Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told ABC News. "But, of course, it's inappropriate and she should return the money. It does raise the appearance that this is payback.
"One can only hope that she wasn't yet aware of who made the donations," said Sloan.
And maybe the ground is shaky because Republics implictly assume the absence of dynasties. When a dynasty meets a republic you get the same uncertain result as in the joke where you cross an elephant with a jar of peanut butter. One of the more interesting historical parallels to a dual presidency were the dual kings of Sparta.
The state was ruled by two hereditary kings of the Agiad and Eurypontids families, both descendants of Heracles and equal in authority, so that one could not act against the veto of his colleague, though the Agiad king received greater honour in virtue of the seniority of his family for being the oldest in existence (Herod. vi. 5). The origins of the powers exercised by the assembly of the citizens, or apella, are virtually unknown, due to the paucity of historical documentation and Spartan state secrecy.
There are several legendary explanations for this unusual dual kingship, which differ only slightly; for example, that King Aristodemus had twin sons, who agreed to share the kingship, and this became perpetual. Modern scholars have advanced various theories to account for the anomaly. Some theorize that this system was created in order to prevent absolutism, and is paralleled by the analogous instance of the dual consuls at Rome.
I have no doubt that the more classically minded Democrat publicists will eventually emphasize the supposed "internal check and balance at the White House" as a feature and not a bug of the Clinton candidacy. The Core Duo Presidency more than doubles the speed. Yes, but toward what?