Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Unconstitutional Secretary of State

President-Elect Obama and Senator Clinton will make a joint appearance tomorrow in Chicago where the President-Elect will announce that he will nominate the junior Senator from New York for Secretary of State.

I am still ambivalent about the pick. It makes sense politically for Obama and it takes advantage of Senator Clinton's political skills. It makes sense as Clinton is a known international figure though not known for foreign policy. Yet, I still do not care enough about the pick.

Interestingly enough, the nomination is unconstitutional from a textual perspective. As Ben Smith notes, according to Article I, Section 6:
"No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time."That is, if the Cabinet, or other, post got a pay hike during the term of the senator, the senator couldn't take the job. During Clinton's Senate term, Bush raised the Cabinet's pay.

This, of course, will not be the first time that an appointment like this occurred. Ben Smith notes that this same problem occurred when Lloyd Bentsen became Treasury Secretary in 1993 and when Richard Nixon made Senator William Saxbe Attorney General in 1973. Clinton could escape the textual problem since she is not a he but to make this interpretive move would create much larger problems.

I am not sure how to interpret the nomination and, unconstitutionality, of the nomination. Is it more like a deontological position, "it is unconstitutional, hence bad" (similar to you are either pregnant or your not: there is no kinda pregnant) or is it more like a consequentialist position, "it's unconstitutional but it is not like the administration implemented torture or usurped Congressional power to declare war."

In some ways, when an incoming administration chooses to ignore the constitution even before it takes office bothers me as it does not offer a lot of confidence that the administration, or anyone else, will follow the constitution. However, most people just do not care.

Oh well. I think i'll take a nap.

No comments: