Thursday, October 23, 2014
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Does Gibson know the Constitution?

The ABC anchor cited a provision about how we elect the vice-president that was amended out of existence 204 years ago.

Does Gibson know the Constitution?

Larry Eichel reports....

Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are taking a lot of heat today for the questions they asked in last night's Democratic presidential debate. And we understand why some people are angry at them. But we've uncovered's a factual problem with their performance.

In the first question of the night, Gibson asked Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton whether they'd agree to former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's suggestion that the winner of the delegate fight should be the presidential nominee and the loser should be the running mate. Neither went along with that.

So Gibson pressed: Just to quote from the Constitution again, "In every case" -- Article II, Section 1 -- "after the choice of the president, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the vice president."

Alas, that part of the Constitution no longer applies. And it hasn't for more than 200 years. If it did, John Kerry would be vice president today.

It was superseded by the Twelfth Amendment, which was passed in 1804. The amendment says there will be separate elections for president and vice president. It was adopted after the mess the country went through as the result of the election of 1800, the first time we actually had two parties vying for the presidency.

We put this to an ABC News spokesman who directed us to what Gibson said after quoting the Constitution:  "If it was good enough in colonial times, why not in these times?"

This, the spokesman said, indicated that Gibson and ABC knew that this section applied then but doesn't apply now. We can only wonder if the viewing audience could figure all of that out. 

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Thomas FitzgeraldThomas Fitzgerald joined The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2000, and has covered Harrisburg as well as city, state and national politics for the newspaper. He was a “boy on the bus” in the 2004 presidential campaign and during primary contests in 2000 and 1996.

Nathan Gorenstein has covered politics and government in the city, state and nation for the Inquirer. He's worked in the city hall bureau, had a stint on the business desk, and once covered the suburbs. After serving as assistant regional editor, he was named editor of the "Politics" web site.

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