The Art of the Story: Donald Miller

The Art of the Story: Donald Miller

Calmes: Happy birthday, Mr. President. Will you run again? The President: I’ll consider it. President: Good. That means I can have coffee with you—not at the White House. Cleveland: (aside to the President) We have to get him to the party for the first time since his heart attack.

In the movie, the president does not run for reelection. For that, he needs to be elected by the people.


In The Art of the Story, Donald Miller argues that the president is not constitutionally required to run, as the Constitution does not define the office of the President. He notes that presidents have often served multiple terms and that this has never led to a constitutional crisis. Miller argues that if the Founders had wanted a president to serve multiple terms then the term could have been defined to allow for this. If they wanted to keep the possibility of a constitutional crisis away from the presidency, they could have included a provision to limit the number of terms to two. Without a clear-cut requirement to stay in the office, there is only the risk of a constitutional crisis (as the two terms would be forever).

Miller: “He might not want to go at some point in the future…if he didn’t get reelected, for example, if he ran for re-election in 1808 and 1812 and, of course, there had been nothing like this to raise a constitutional problem.” (I’m not sure if Miller has this example on record, but he cited this as an example.)

Miller’s argument that the Founders wanted a president to serve multiple terms may be valid, but it is also possible that the Founders were aware of the possibility of a constitutional crisis. Miller’s arguments here make the following assumptions: (1) that the president’s term is important in the constitution so that if the constitution does not explicitly state that the president must stay in office for a term of years, then it must mean that the president cannot stay in office for the rest of his life without being considered a lame duck president. (2) that the Supreme Court would have the authority to rule on whether the president could serve twice as long as he had been serving. I think this argument is very weak.

A lame duck president is a president who

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