PIERRE, S.D. -- Sensing the Democratic presidential nomination slipping from her grasp, Sen. Hillary Clinton this morning made an unprecedented promise to the voters of the final two Democratic presidential primaries of 2008. If elected president, she says, she will make every Democratic primary voter in Montana and South Dakota "president for five minutes."
"A lot of candidates say that a vote for them is a vote to empower the little guy," Clinton said during a press conference held in a room inside her campaign headquarters here that was redesigned to look like the Oval Office. "But only by voting for me will you get to wield actual power. You will get to personally run the country for five minutes."
To demonstrate how the plan would work, Clinton sat a voter in the president's chair in the mock-up Oval Office.
"Okay, Fred, you've got five minutes," Clinton said. "Go for it."
The voter, Fred Testerman, 54, of Pierre, looked blankly at Clinton for four seconds before saying, "Yeah. OK. Um... Well, first off, can you show me them alien pictures?"
"I can do whatever you want, Fred, you're the president, remember?" Clinton responded.
"Oh, yeah. Well, in that case, get me a bourbon on the rocks, the good stuff," Testerman said. "And I want to try a Cuban cigar, I know you've got to have one around here somewhere. If not, ship a box to my house. And I want to see that Marilyn Monroe movie everyone's been talking about, you know the one I mean. And get me some stationery, I want to write a letter to that jerk Roy Boscoe who said in 10th grade that I'd never amount to anything. Oh, and get them alien pictures!"
Constitutional scholars said Sen. Clinton's offer is blatantly unconstitutional as the Constitution requires that presidents be elected by the Electoral College, not appointed by a sitting president.
"There's no way she can legally appoint someone president, even for five minutes," Dartmouth Professor Terence Tittlethwait said. "She could let people sit in the big chair, I suppose, but she can't give them real power."
Clinton brushed aside such concerns.
"If Bush can be appointed by the Supreme Court, I don't see why I can't appoint people who also didn't get elected," she said.
Montana has an open primary, which means that all 628,000 registered voters could vote on Tuesday and earn their five minutes in the Oval Office. South Dakota has a closed primary, so only the state's 195,000 registered Democrats would be eligible.
If every eligible voter took part in tomorrow's primaries, Clinton would be obligated to let 823,000 people be president for five minutes. At 288 people a day, Clinton would need 2,858 days to give every voter his or her promised five minutes. That's 7.8 years, which would leave her just 2.4 months to govern on her own, assuming she is elected to two terms. Clinton said she was fine with that.
"This isn't about me," she said. "This is about empowering real Americans. It's about delivering on promises that have been made to the American people for generations but never kept. It's about democracy. It's about making real change in this great country of ours and giving the people a voice. It's about making a more hopeful America, an America where the common man finally has a say. Let's see, did I leave out any cliches? Nope, I think that does it. Now where are my lawyers, we've got some small print to create."
Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton's rival for the nomination, called the promise "a regrettable publicity stunt that is unworthy of Sen. Clinton and her campaign. We expected more from a woman of her stature and dignity. OK, so maybe we didn't, but this is still really pathetic."
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