Must the POTUS and/or the VPOTUS be civilians?

I’ve always heard that only civilians may hold the top government positions, but I just read all of Article 2 and Amendments 12, 20, & 25 and can find not mention of it.

Did I just miss it, or is it in another part of the constitution, or does it not exist?


Having a CO would make that whole “commander in chief” thing kind of awkward.

Yeah, I think you’re looking at it wrong. Nothing would preclude a PFC from running and winning the office of POTUS, but being POTUS would preclude him or her from continuing their military career as a PFC.

It would/could be very awkward, but is it unconstitutional?

While there is a statutory bar to a military officer running for president, I am not aware of a constitutional prohibition on someone who is active duty military holding the office. The position of commander-in-chief is constitutionally mandated and would override whatever other military rank or duties that president held, though. Also, that president would be constitutionally barred from drawing a separate salary from his or her military position.

Interesting sidenote I just found. Due to possible legal issues, Hillary Clinton formally resigned from her “position” as First Lady before she took office as Senator (this was two weeks before Bill’s term of office finished). Apparently there have been arguments made that First Lady has become a de facto position in the Executive branch and as a member of Congress, she was prohibited from holding any Executive post. (Chelsea was the official First Lady for this period.)

Douglas MacArthur was on the ballot in the Republican primaries for teh 1948 elections, although he did not campaign.

[Double Post]

I believve it’s a convention that military officers resign when elected to office. Gen. Eisenhower ran for President while on the retired list*, but resigned prior to taking office.

Members of Congress may not hold another office of trust or profit under the Federal government. This however did not stop Sen. Goldwater from retaining his Brig. Gen, in the AF reserve status, but he did not draw a salary while Senator.

  • Unlike enlisted men, NCOs, Warrant Officers, company and field grade officers, general officers, including Admirals, do not separate from the service on retirement but go on the ‘retired list’ where they draw 3/4 salary and have no assigned duties. They are technically subject to recall in a national emergency. This may have influenced Gens. Marshall and Powell to accept the Secretaruships which Pres. Truman and GW Bush asked them to take.

Do you have a link? I’m interested in reading more about this.

I read it in a Wikipedia article.

I think that’s incorrect. An article from The New York Times at the time of her swearing in as senator says, “But for the next 17 days, until her husband leaves the White House, she will be in the unprecedented position of holding down two important jobs here in the capital: first lady and United States senator.”

Could be. Apparently there are people disputing the wikipedia article (which doesn’t provide a cite).

I found this article from 2008 which confirms that Chelsea Clinton was acting in the role but doesn’t define her official status. (This is a conservative website and it’s basically complaining about what it thinks the Clintons are doing wrong this week.)

It’s not in the constitution but the DoD (mostly) bars any current member of the military from political activity including running and holding office.

I don’t buy it either. It would imply that there’s an official need for a first lady (or first gentleman). It’s not like an unmarried president would *have *to name a first lady (or gentleman) under the law.

I think that upon taking office in the Senate, Hillary would just have to give up her office in the East Wing, along with her First Lady’s budget. There would be no pressing need to fill that office with someone.

I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the obvious: Dwight Eisenhower. (According to wikipedia) He was americas top general. and leader of all allied forces in WWII (two separate positions), and a few other top military positions before becoming president, including supreme commander of NATO only a year before running for president.

I also recall Colin Powell was being considered as a nominee years ago.

The obvious what? He doesn’t fit the OP’s question since he was not active military when he ran for president. And any run Powell would have made would have been post-retirement, too.

I’m assuming the question is about active military running for the presidency, right? Otherwise U.S. Grant would also qualify (in terms of top generals), plus a slew of other former military (which is a majority of presidents.)

It seems that, regarding Hilary Clinton, is not that she was holding an actual office, but was exercising executive powers which are derived by appointment from the POTUS, albeit mostly White House hosting duties. Surely the POTUS could do the job of directing the hosting protocols at the White House or appoint anyone else from a staffer to a citizen volunteer to do such hosting duties (or one’s daughter, as in the Clintons’ case).

To avoid conflict, she officially resigned from such duties before some foxy person or their friends made a federal case (literally) out of it.

OP Short version: no, there’s no explicit constitutional prohibition in as many words but there are limitations deriving from regulation and statute as well as from political good sense and taste that keep an active duty member of the military from running for or holding elected political office.

And since the Constitution provides for legislation to regulate the military, it’s constitutional to legislate or regulate to say that you can’t be active-duty and run for and hold said office.

As to the First Lady, the role of Social Protocol Hostess of the White House was in the past assumed by other ladies in the President’s family or Cabinet wives when a President’s spouse was not available due to bachelorhood or widowhood. That may have been the function that Chelsea assumed for a couple of weeks.