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Could a Former President Ever Become Vice President?

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In 1980, Republican presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan planned to make an unprecedented move in American politics. Shortly after announcing his candidacy, he sat down with advisers and hashed out a plan for a running mate: Gerald Ford, the President who held office from 1974 to 1977.

When broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite asked Ford point-blank if he and Reagan were considering what Cronkite termed a “co-presidency,” Ford dodged the question with a non-denial; Reagan was taken aback that Ford would consider the arrangement to be one of equal influence. The idea stalled out, and George H.W. Bush became Reagan’s vice president.

If the issue had progressed, Reagan would have skirted close to a Constitutional impasse. What happens if your vice president, who is a former president, re-enters the office of the presidency if the commander-in-chief is indisposed? And is such a move even constitutionally possible?

The 12th Amendment, which was ratified in 1804, directs that no one “ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice President of the United States.” The 22nd Amendment states that “[n]o person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice." (Thank you, Franklin Roosevelt.) While this means the not-quite-one-term Ford would have been fine, it does mean a president who has served two terms couldn’t possibly be selected as a running mate.

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Or could they? Some Constitutional scholars have argued it's possible. Columbia University law professor Michael Dorf explored the topic in 2000, when the exiting Bill Clinton was being earmarked as a running mate for Al Gore. Clinton, Dorf argued, wasn’t “ineligible,” just not electable—a big difference. If a former-president-turned-veep were to re-take office, it wouldn’t be due to an election, it would be due to the departing president’s death, removal, or resignation. The same would hold true for serving more than two terms—the third would be a succession, not an election.

A 2006 Washington Post article delved into the question further, finding three lawyers and a federal judge who agreed—with Hillary Clinton eyeing the Oval Office, they asserted that nothing in the Constitution would prohibit a two-Clinton ticket (the issue of them being from the same state is a discussion for another time). Others, however, stated taking “elected” at face value is being too literal, and that the spirit of the amendment was to prevent anyone from holding office for more than two terms regardless of how they arrived there.

The latter argument was supported by Bill Clinton, who has been fielding questions of his possible vice presidency alongside Hillary. Talking to David Letterman in 2007, Clinton said that “I just don’t believe it’s consistent with the spirit of the Constitution for someone who’s been president twice to be elected vice president … I don’t think it’s right and I wouldn’t want to do that.”

Grilled by Mario Lopez in 2015, Hillary Clinton echoed the sentiment, saying that her husband is “not eligible … it would not be possible for him to ever succeed to the position.”

An equal amount of confusion existed back in 1960, when Dwight Eisenhower jokingly floated the idea of running for vice president. He didn't, of course, for the same reason few presidents have ever sought office after stepping down: after ruling the free world, no one wants to accept a demotion. 

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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