Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Twentieth Amendment

Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
Section 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
Section 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
Section 4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.
Section 5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.
Section 6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.

This amendment seeks to smooth out the transition between elected officials. Boring... but important.


Party crashing is nothing new

News_Steve Popp_Columnist_head shot_THIS
By Steve Popp
December 01, 2009 at 10:00 AM

Perhaps Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson inspired you, and in a fit of impulsiveness you crashed a wedding reception.

Or possibly you just couldn’t resist the tempting lunch buffet for conventioneers at the hotel you were staying and sampled some food not meant for you.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Regardless of the event or venue, the odds are pretty good that here in Houston’s vibrant social scene there is at least some party-crashing going on every night of the week.

But crashing a Presidential State dinner? Now that’s brazen.

In case you missed it over the Thanksgiving holidays, the Washington D.C. beltway “punditocracy” was abuzz after a Virginia couple crashed President Obama’s first state dinner. The dinner honored Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gusharan Kaur. The event was filled with glitz and glamour, but also rather serious protocol. As First Lady Michele Obama explained, the dinner is a “really important part of our nation’s diplomacy.”

President Ulysses S. Grant held the first formal state dinner in 1874 for King Kalakaua of Hawaii, and since then, Presidents have used the event to highlight diplomatic relations and stress international goodwill. Obama viewed this dinner as an opportunity for the United States and India to “realize all the triumphs and achievements that await us.”

I don’t think headlines about party-crashing reality TV aspirants were what the White House had in mind for their first event.

The Party Crashers

Michaele and Tareq Salahi, apparent hopefuls for the Bravo series The Real Housewives of Washington, rolled up to the formal diplomatic event with cameras in tow. Despite not being on the list of the 300 or more guests, they cleared the first round of security screening and made it in the event. To the embarrassment of the Secret Service, they then strode across the red carpet and rubbed elbows with all sorts of politicians and celebrities. They were not seated for dinner. They did, however, get some nice party pics.

These reality stunts never seem to end up too well (Balloon Boy anyone?). Yet in my book, the Salahi’s stunt is not the most spectacular story of White House party crashing.

The Real Party Crashers of Washington D.C.

Andrew Jackson’s Inaugural ceremony in 1829 set the bar for party crashing. Jackson, who we all know from the twenty-dollar bill, became the seventh President championing the slogan “let the people rule”.

And that’s exactly what happened at the post-inauguration bash at the White House on March 4, 1829. It was balmy and 57 degrees. We don’t really have many balmy inauguration days any more thanks to the 20th Amendment. Ratified in 1933, the amendment moved the Inauguration ceremony from March to January 20th to cut back on the lame duck period between Election Day in November and the day the President took the oath of office.

But it was at the White House post-party where things started to go bad. Washington D.C. resident Margaret Bayard Smith, eyewitness to the inaugural bash, recounted the litany of social horrors: among them, tracking mud all over the carpets. She also surmised “cut glass and china to the amount of several thousand dollars had been broken in the struggle to get the refreshments.”

“Ladies fainted,” she continued, “men were seen with bloody noses and such a scene of confusion took place as is impossible to describe.” President Jackson had to escape to avoid being “suffocated and torn to pieces by the people.”

And this is my favorite part: During the melee, quick thinking Presidential aides lured the unruly crowd outside with tantalizing washtubs filled to the brim with the 19th century version of trashcan punch--whiskey and orange juice. Now that’s a party!


When the Salahi’s got within inches of President Obama, many were rightfully aghast. But at least there was security at the state dinner. In 1829, the Secret Service didn’t exist.

The agency was created 36 years later in 1865, but only maintained a part time responsibility for protecting the President. However, after the assassinations of three sitting Presidents in 30 years, that changed, and the Secret Service became full time guardians of the President. (As an aside, the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968 prompted Congress to order security protection for Presidential candidates. In May 2007, Obama started receiving Secret Service protection, earlier than any other Presidential candidate.)

So with tubs filled full of whiskey and no Secret Service to be found, the inauguration of Andrew Jackson set the standard for Washington party crashing.

And Jackson’s inauguration party was a hard act to follow. For his second inaugural, they gave it their all by bringing in a 1400-pound block of cheddar cheese in 1835. Cheddar in lieu of whiskey certainly kept the crazies at bay.

Let’s not be surprised if a block of cheddar is brought in for Obama's next state dinner.

Allow this guy to explain the 20th to you. He uses the most technologically advanced equipment. This amendment happened in 1947.

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