The Shortest Presidency

Sgt. Michael Simmons of Bethesda. Maryland, with the Alpha Company, 1-18 Combined Arms Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, carries his gear as his unit prepares to turn over their base to the Iraqi security forces in Hurriyah neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, May 28, 2009. In a security agreement with the Iraqi government all US troops must leave Iraqi cities by the June 30th 2009. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic) AP Photo/Dusan Vranic

Last Saturday, Dick Cheney was President of the United States for two hours and fifteen minutes. He got this position without controversy, without spending a dime campaigning, and without the Supreme Court making a dubious ruling.

President Bush invoked the 25th Amendment making Cheney the temporary President while Mr. Bush underwent a routine colonoscopy. The only other time the 25th Amendment had been used was when Ronald Reagan had colon surgery and transferred his powers to the first President Bush. Historians will note that, so far, this amendment is only used when it involves both a George Bush and a colon.

The official version of what happened during Cheney's two hours and fifteen minutes as the most powerful man in the world includes an intelligence briefing and staff meetings.

Yeah, right. Isn't it a lot more likely that what happened during those 135 minutes was Dick Cheney getting a kick out of being President?

He probably sat in the big chair, put his feet up on the desk in the oval office, and phoned all his old friends, saying, "Guess where I'm calling from?" I wouldn't be surprised if he put in a special call to that high school teacher in Wyoming who said he'd never amount to anything. If you peeked in the White House during those hours, you might have seen Cheney joyously dancing to "Hail to the Chief." And would he really be able to resist calling to make dinner reservations for "President and Mrs. Cheney?"

If he's the prankster that many think he is, maybe he toyed with his aides by saying things like, "What happens if I press this red button? Oops!"

At 9:24 AM, Mr. Bush sent a fax to the White House, telling Mr. Cheney that he was no longer the temporary President. How tempted do you think he was to pretend that he never received that transmission?
    AIDE: "Now that you have the fax, it's time to surrender the Presidency back to President Bush, sir."

    CHENEY: "Fax? What fax? I never got a fax. I'm going to take Air Force One for a little spin now. See you later."
I find it interesting that the Amendment was invoked because President Bush was going to be unconscious for about twenty minutes. Certainly this was not the first time, nor the longest time, that a sitting President had been unconscious while in office.

And why invoke the amendment while the President was asleep because of the anesthetic, but not every night when the President is just asleep? That way, we could have a daytime President and a nighttime President. While Congress will probably spend years and millions debating my proposal of a Night and Day Presidency, I have a suggestion that requires more immediate attention:

The most significant thing about those two hours and fifteen minutes while Cheney was president is that nothing bad happened. No new wars were declared, the stock market didn't plunge, and not one politician was arrested for a felony. Was there ever a more successful Presidency in the history of the United States?

Does this mean that Dick Cheney has the stuff to be the greatest President ever? Not necessarily. What it means is that two hours and fifteen minutes is not enough time for a president to get in any trouble. Or, for that matter, it's not enough time for a president to get our country in any trouble.

Therefore, I propose that we take another look at, not the 25th, but the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution. That's the one that says that the longest a president can serve is eight years. I propose that those eight years be reduced to two hours and fifteen minutes. That's how long we should elect our presidents for. It seems like the perfect length of time for a person to do no harm to the country, but still enjoy sitting in that oval office and bragging to his friends and old teachers.

On second thought, maybe we'd better round it down to two hours. These people can get in trouble awfully fast.



Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver
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