Daily Archives: October 13, 2007

Civics on Saturday: The Constitution, Part III- Article II

Just as Article I of the Constitution establishes Congress and defined its role, Article II creates the Executive Branch of government and sets out some guidelines and parameters as to what functions the framers thought the president and vice president should serve.

Section I of the article creates the office of president and vice president and decrees that they shall serve four year terms, though there’s no mention of a limitation on how many four year terms they can serve. The question of term limitations wasn’t really considered until FDR ran for his third stay in the White House. He died during his fourth term, and Congress proposed the XXII (22nd) Amendment, which restricted the term of president to eight years (or ten if the president takes over for one who is assassinated or otherwise incapacitated.

The president and vice president are not chosen by popular vote – directly by the people – but rather by an electoral college. They are appointed by the individual states and their numbers are equal to the individual states’ legislative members. The assumption was made, when the Constitution was written, that the citizenry wouldn’t be able to make an informed decision about whom to elect for such an important office and, if we consider the difficulties in travel and communication in the 1780s, I can’t say I disagree with that assumption. I’m still not entirely sure I completely understand how the electoral college works; it’s something I’ll do a bit more research about when I have a little more time.

The actual procedure the electors used to name a president was modified by the XII (12th) Amendment in 1804, and provided separate balloting procedures for both the president and vice president – as best I can tell, there was some hullaballoo between Jefferson and Aaron Burr, and the House of Representatives had to decide between the tied candidates.

The Article also names the requirements for a person to be elected into the Executive offices: they must be a natural-born citizen (leaving the Governator out of the running) and must be at least 35 years old at the time of his or her election. JFK was 43 when he was elected into office, though Teddy Roosevelt was made president at 42 after McKinley was assassinated in 1901. The president also must have lived in the U.S. for 14 years. The article also decrees that the vice president shall be named president in the event of “removal…from office, …death, resignation or inability to discharge the powers and duties” on the part of the president.

The article lays out some of the jobs the president is expected to fulfill, as well: s/he has recess appointment powers, s/he is required to give “information of the state of the union” to Congress, s/he is tasked to “receive ambassadors and other public ministers,” and, most importantly, the president is required to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” The process of impeachment – of removing a president from office should the officer be charged with “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors – is also outlined in the Article.

I have to tell you how difficult it is for me to not comment on the current office holder. I recognize that’s not what this forum is for, however, so I’m exercising great restraint (especially when we got to the impeachment part).

This is an awful lot of information. Are your brains full yet?


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