Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A bit of trivia that's being trotted out quite a bit lately is that only three US Presidents have been sitting Senators when elected. The last one was JFK, and I sat down with a pencil the other night to try and figure out who the other two were. The first order of business was to list them. I was able to go as far back as Harding, but I couldn't recall how he had come to the nomination, apart from knowing that he'd been nominated in a backroom deal at a brokered convention. Turns out he's one of our senators; the other was James A. Garfield, who the Ohio Legislature had appointed, but who was nominated as the Republican candidate for President before actually taking office as a senator. Benjamen Harrison was a sitting Senator too (the Hoosier State was big stuff in Presidential politics back then), so I guess Garfield isn't included in the tally on a technicality.

It's funny that this is the case. Every Senator is said to look in the mirror in the morning and say, "You could be the next President", and the institution itself is said to be "the most exclusive club in the world", but evidently it's not the best path to the top job. Being Vice President is a good move, and being VP for someone old, or bullet-prone is a very canny move. Perhaps the former is what Mittens is banking on -- I still think his LDS pedigree would be a deal-breaker for too many of what would otherwise be his base for him to get there any other way. Time was being in someone's Cabinet was a good move, but Hoover was the last guy that worked for.

I'd say that the National Governors Association is a more exclusive club than the Senate-- there are only 50 members of that, and being a governor is a much better way into the Oval Office than the Senate. David Broder quotes the late James H. Rowe Jr. as telling him once that if he could he'd amend the Constitution to provide "No senator of the United States shall be eligible for the office of president," because "Senators don't know how to run anything. Their staffs have to tell them what to do. They walk around with little slips of paper in their pocket saying, 'Call so-and-so,' or 'Remember to talk to so-and-so.'"

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