Even the worst political science student can usually recite the first few people in line if the President dies/resigns/or is removed from office: Vice-President, Speaker of the House, President Pro Tem of the Senate. But the list doesn’t stop there, campers! If something happens to those four people, cabinet secretaries are next in line.
This is part of the Presidential Succession Act signed by President Harry Truman in 1947. If the top Executive and Legislative officers are unable to serve as president, then the Act provides for cabinet secretaries to be tapped in the order that their departments were created.
Now certainly, it’s almost inconceivable that something would happen to the Trump, Pence, Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senator Orrin Hatch all within a short timespan, but six months ago, many – if not most -people (not me) would have given you an almost 100% guarantee that Hillary Clinton would be President-elect today.
So let’s consider the possibility of an unthinkable “Tom Clancy-like” event happening in a year where politics and world events confounded experts and defied expectations.
Think nobody could be worse than Trump? Consider the first 5 cabinet departments and the top candidates and nominees:
- Secretary of State: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Bob Corker, John Bolton
- Secretary of the Treasury: Steve Mnuchin (banking/real estate vulture capitalist)
- Secretary of Defense: retired USMC General James Mattis
- Attorney General: AL Senator Jeff Sessions
- Secretary of the Interior: AK Governor Mary Fallin, Sarah Palin, Forrest Lucas (energy executive)
Mitt Romney and James Mattis are the only two who seem remotely qualified and not likely to send their departments (or the entire world) careening wildly off the rails. And Mattis will need a legal exemption to serve.
Note: there are serious legal and Constitutional concerns about the Presidential Succession Act, but lawsuits and constitutional questions would only add to the turmoil should it be invoked. And if there’s one thing we do know, it’s that uncertainty, disorder, and fear among the population strengthens authoritarian politicians. And there are plenty of those on Trump’s short lists for Cabinet positions.
Elections matter, folks.