A 28th constitutional amendment could keep this from happening again. First, an amendment should work against conflicts of interest by making the disclosure of tax returns well before Election Day an eligibility requirement for federal offices. And it should expand the Constitution's emoluments clause, which bars the president from accepting gifts or favors from foreign states, to explicitly include the president and his or her immediate family, and cover businesses held directly and indirectly.

The amendment should replace the Office of Government Ethics with a new entity that's responsible jointly to the president and both houses of Congress, charged not only with establishing ethics regulations but also with suspending officials who violate them. It should institutionalize the independence of the Justice Department by making the attorney general an officer who serves at the pleasure of both the president and Congress, thereby ensuring that attorneys general would not be able to do active harm for very long.

Finally, the amendment should prevent presidents from pardoning themselves, their families, their staffs and campaign officials, and perhaps even major donors to their campaigns. It should eliminate the ability to grant pardons between Election Day and the beginning of the next presidential term.


In fact, the 22nd Amendment [passed despite originally having only one-party support]. Republicans tried unsuccessfully to make FDR's break with term-limit traditions a campaign issue in the 1940 and 1944 elections. Many Democrats were also uneasy with FDR's decision but chose to overlook it thanks to FDR's strong support among voters.

When Republicans regained Congress after the 1946 elections, they immediately endorsed a constitutional amendment to limit presidents to two terms. Despite its partisan flavor, the amendment reached the necessary two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate because many Democrats supported it.

Ratification by the states also started as a sharply partisan effort. Eighteen Republican-controlled legislatures approved the amendment within two months, but that was nowhere near the three-quarters of states (36 in 1947) needed to make it law. Over the next three years, the amendment began to be seen less as a protest against FDR and more as endorsing a long-standing tradition. It was eventually ratified by 18 more states -- eight controlled by Republicans, nine by Democrats and one with split control -- to become law in March 1951.

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