Last week’s post provided background information on the Presidential Line of Succession and the current list of potential successors that would become President in the event that both the President and Vice-President were no longer able to fulfil their duties. In today’s post I want to talk about why I disagree with this plan of succession and what I would propose as an alternative.

First, I disagree with the presidential successor serving as the Acting President for the remainder of the Presidential Term. I believe that the original Presidential Succession Act of 1792 got it right, and that presidential successor would only serve in a temporary capacity until a new president can be elected.

That being said, I understand that such elections take time and it would be impractical to schedule a presidential election if there were only a few months remaining in the Presidential term. Therefore, I would propose that the presidential successor would serve in a temporary capacity as Acting President for a period not to exceed twelve months, and that if there are more than twelve months remaining in the presidential term, that a presidential election be scheduled within three months following the date of succession.

Second, I vehemently disagree with a non-elected official serving as the Acting President of the United States, in a temporary capacity or otherwise. This flies in the face of every principal that this country was founded on and completely ignores the principles of a “representative” government. President Truman rightly recognized this and requested this change be made in the Presidential Succession Act of 1947. Unfortunately, the change was only implemented for the first two successors after the Vice-President and left non-elected officials in the remaining successor positions.

While I recognize the arguments for these non-elected successors – maintaining continuity – there are other ways to achieve continuity without bypassing the will of We the People. The Acting President is free to pick his cabinet, and can choose to have any or all of the previous cabinet members remain in the same position in order to maintain continuity.

The office of the President of the United States is often referred to as the most powerful position in the world, and IS the most powerful position in the United States government (as it was intended to be by our founding fathers). The office of the Vice-President is not far behind (only a heart-beat away as we learned when Dan Quayle was selected by George H. W. Bush to be his Vice-Presidential candidate) as the Vice-President is first in line to replace the President, if such a need were to arise.

The President and Vice-President are the only two officials of the United States government that are elected by the entire country, and rightfully so. The President and Vice President represent ALL of the people of the United States and ALL of the States. Every other elected official is elected by voters of the state or district within the state that they represent.

In my humble opinion, to have a non-elected official serve as the Acting President of the United States is nothing short of tyranny. (How many of you remember then Secretary of State Alexander Haig saying “As of now, I am in control here, in the White House” when President Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr.? Seems he forgot all about Vice-President Bush, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill and President pro tem of the Senate Strom Thurmond.) Putting a non-elected official in a position to assume the role of President of the United States is like keeping a can of gasoline next to the fireplace - sooner or later there WILL be a fire.

I would eliminate all of the non-elected successors and rather than have a list of successors to replace them, have the House of Representatives and the Senate choose and elect a presidential successor from the elected members of the House or Senate should the need arise. To ensure a bi-partisan vote, a 2/3 vote by both houses would be required to elect a presidential successor.

Third, and I believe most importantly, placing the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tem of the Senate in the second and third positions of succession after the Vice-President is a serious and potentially dangerous conflict of interest. As was evidenced by the Democrats rabid and delusional efforts to impeach President Donald Trump, partisan politics within Congress should never be put in a position to undo the will of We the People.

And since it is the House of Representatives that has “the sole Power of Impeachment”, and the Senate that has “the sole Power to try all Impeachments”, it sure seems that the potential to abuse those powers not only exists but has been and is being abused for political gain. Had the Democrats been successful in their efforts to have President Trump removed from office, I have no doubt that they would have immediately begun impeachment proceedings against Vice-President Mike Pence.

Had they been successful in that effort, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would have become Acting President of the United States for the remainder of Donald Trump’s term of office. Not only is that wrong at every level, it is frightening to think that it could have actually happened. Even worse is to realize that it could have happened “legally” under the current terms of the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.

So how do we “fix” this potential nightmare. I can think of only two options. (1), eliminate the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tem of the Senate from the presidential line of succession, or (2) eliminate the Speaker of the House and the President pro tem of the Senate from the presidential line of succession IF the offices of the President and Vice-President are vacated because of Impeachment. I vote for option 2. Take away the carrot and the donkey will stop (pun intended).

Now all we need is a Presidential Succession Act of 2022 to implement these changes.

I'm not holding my breath.

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