Thursday, November 15, 2007

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?


Blogger Jason Holliston said...

While there are going to be plenty of "anyone but a Clinton or Bush" voters this coming election, to be sure, remember that there's also a general nostalgia for the '90's, and Bill still commands quite an positive rating. If any ex-President could be allowed into this role, it would be him.

11/15/2007 02:53:00 AM  
Blogger Nate said...

If there is nostalgia for the 90s, it's a nostalgia based on ignorance of gathering threats.

This ignorance is born from the passivity of the Clinton presidency in the wake of multiple acts of war against the United States.

11/15/2007 04:17:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I think Republican boasts of executive experience and claims that Hillary Clinton hasn't run anything are clever means to incite her to blurt out something like, "What are you talking about? I ran the White House!"

And that would open the can of worms...

11/15/2007 05:27:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Another amendment by Sen. Hutchison that says DHS does not have to build the fence!

As we reported to you last week, our government has built just five
miles of the 854 miles of double-layer border fence mandated by
the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

This outrageous fact begs a question...
Why? If the law mandated a double layer fence covering 854 miles,
then how come such little progress has been made?

+ + Border fence funding hoax of 2006 and 2007's research staff has blown the lid off a deceptive
and convoluted border fence funding sham being perpetrated on
the citizens of our nation.

Warning -- reading this report will enrage you. It will
infuriate you. Go here to access the full report:


As you will see in this report, Congress and the Administration
are pretending to support a real border fence but then working
behind the scenes to ensure that the Secure Fence Act is never
really implemented.

It happened last year, and as I write, Congress is trying to repeat
its Border Fence Funding Hoax on us again! Here's how...

As you may know, last week an amendment providing $3 billion for
border security was stripped from the DOD appropriations bill.

We fully expect that bill to be added to the DHS funding bill
in the next few days. But even if they pass the $3 billion
funding amendment, DHS may not be required to use any of that
money for the border fence.

That's because of another amendment by Sen. Hutchison that says DHS does not have to build the fence!
Sen. Hutchison's staff told us this amendment (also removed from DOD appropriations) will alsobe re-attached to the DHS appropriations bill.

11/15/2007 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

...snatching defeat from the jaw of victory.

11/15/2007 07:07:00 AM  
Blogger Pascal said...

A human generation of such would tempt historians to refer to this as the Bush-Clinton dynastic period.

Well, future historians no doubt.

Hans Christian Andersen satirically wrote of the craven silence of present day non-fools, eh Wretchard?

Maybe I should commission another cartoon as companion for my RepublicRats?

11/15/2007 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

RWE, et al:
P-38 Lightning Rises Up From a Beach in Wales

A reader in Bermuda alerts me to a great story and pics about a World War II-era P-38 Lightning fighter that has emerged from the sand on a Welsh beach.

The Tank

11/15/2007 07:33:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Isn't a generation largely consider to be 80 yrs? Where'd you get the 24yr generation figure?

11/15/2007 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 11/15/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

11/15/2007 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

If I thought he could beat Hillary, I'd be supporting John McCain. Unfortunately McCain can't beat Hillary or even get through the primary process. If George W. Bush could run for a third term and beat Hillary then I'd vote for him but obviously he can't. The only Republican who theoretically can beat Hillary is Giuliani. A vote for any other Republican is effectively a vote for Hillary.

It's clear that the left and the MSM fear Giuliani because they are already trying to smear him and engaged in subtle politics against him. Unfortunately in the end, it is all for nought because: "It's the economy, stupid". A year from now we'll be in a major recession and Hillary wins by default.

However it could have been worse: Kerry could be president now (shudder) or Edwards could have had a clear shot at election (Hillary blocks him). Hillary will merely be a bad president rather than one who leads us to national suicide.

11/15/2007 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Mayhem, It's just words but a generation is commonly used to refer not to the length of a human lifespan ("three score and ten") but the gaps between father and son. A grandfather, father and son are three generations. From Wikipedia:

Generation (from the Greek γενεά) ... is a stage or degree in a succession of natural descent as a grandfather, a father, and the father's son comprise three generations.

It's about 25 years in length.

# Greatest Generation (1911–1924)
# Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
# Generation Jones (1954–1965)
# Baby Busters (1965–1980)
# Generation X (1965–1983)

11/15/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

While this might have political salience by influencing the not-altogether-rational preferences of voters, I am actually unconcerned by both the pseudo-dynastic overtones and the expected power-sharing couplet that would attend an HRC presidency.

One, dynastic tendencies in the electorate last only so long as the brand claims a reflexive loyalty in the mind of the people. If the shine wears off, the viability of dynasty disappears. Thus, Bush-the-brand is now a liability, while Clinton-the-brand is resurgent. It is not obvious to me why rewarding (political) market success and punishing (political) market failure is a bad thing. Insofar as it results in additional incentives for popular (broadly-favored) governance, I don't mind at all: the "dynasty" exists only at the pleasure of the people. And, unlike, say, monarchy or the nepotist-authoritarianism of the Middle East, this "dynasty" must be reaffirmed every four years, with an absolute individual-cap of eight years, or it dies.

As to Bill featuring prominently in a Hillary administration -- most likely as Principal Advisor and Voice of Power -- that doesn't bother me at all. Once you accept that all presidents have principal advisors, it is not obvious why it's a bad thing for Hillary's to be a former President. As Kennedy told Strange, there aren't any schools for Commanders-in-Chief. The next best thing, it seems to me, is to have instant access to a repository of practical wisdom and institutional memory; thus, a former President-as-advisor is an advantage, not a liability.

Now, one can make the case that this particular duo is unworthy, unlikeable, or dangerous in whatever way. But those are specific assertions about Bill and Hillary, not principled objections to ex-President-advisors and surnames-as-political-brands in general.

11/15/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

The cap, of course, is 10 years.

11/15/2007 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

eggplant - The only Republican who theoretically can beat Hillary is Giuliani. A vote for any other Republican is effectively a vote for Hillary.


It is based on Rudy having years of the NY media keeping him at close or on the front page of national news day after day. Then came 9/11 and his apotheosis as "Our Hero" and "America's Mayor" in the same reverential tones as they called the Dallas Cowboys "America's Team".
And Hillary!b woe was also a daily celebrity for 16 years running and a fellow media darling.

THe media periodically annoint people as "inevitable". Teddy was inevitable in 1976 and 1980. Polls showed he beat Ford and the crazy actor Reagan conclusively yet the public, not privy to the wisdom of journalists, rejected the enshrinement of Camelot II - the Philistines!

Governors like Carter, Reagan, Clinton were thought to have no chance against "famous Senators" the media loved.

"Theoretically" - Mrs Clinton - a person with no real resume` other than being a 7-year Senator and companion of Bill may be vulnerable to several fellow Democrats on her lack of real credentials, real executive experience, and dislikablity factor.

Same on Giuliani's side where the "media pass" he was given is finally being attacked by the other candidates. Not just his "values", but his being in or peripheral to scandals, his Open Borders positions, his lately being the Neocon's pet as he plays saber-rattling Il Duce claiming that more wars might be called for if Israel tells us we must...

And both Rudy and Hillary! are bought and paid for by the corporatists. As co-opted as Dubya was.

Neither Rudy or Hillary are inevitable.

11/15/2007 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

Perhaps former President Clinton would be enshrined as first enabler. That would answer and pose a lot of questions. As long as the writers are on strike, who is there to take advantage of it in a late night monologue?

I have no faith in the ability of the fence to resolve anything. That said if a fence is the best we can do so be it. As long as congress avoids the issues of visa reforms, and states are allowed to abuse motor/voter there is very little that can stop the abuses. Publich outrage seems not to matter for much.

A lack of Leadership from the White House and on the floor of the House and Senate, is something that remains a huge frustration. I fear more of the same in the Legislative branch than I fear a Hillary Presidency, and I fear a Hillary Presidency a great deal. For a charismatic leader legislative foot dragging can be overcome. For someone less skilled in communication ( both listening and talking), leadership in the legislature can either make or break a Presidency. Unfortunately there is nothing positive from which to draw any expectations of Hillary and too much on the First enabler. The republican house leadership made the former President's tenure better as it could have been.

11/15/2007 05:28:00 PM  

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