Presidential Succession

The Reality: Mike Pence Likely To Become President

The situation Mike Pence faces as Vice President after less than a month in office is that he must be starting to realize that he will become President at some point during this term.

The same situation faced Gerald Ford in December 1973, when he became Vice President under the 25th Amendment, the first such use of that amendment just passed six years earlier.

Ford knew that Richard Nixon was in trouble, and Mike Pence knows Donald Trump is in trouble.

Both Ford then and now Pence must “walk on eggs”, and be careful about what they say and do, in order to avoid any untoward indications of interfering with the procedures used to judge whether the President they serve is someone who should be removed from office.

But at the end, it is likely that Mike Pence will feel a need to utilize Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, to remove Donald Trump from office as a danger to national security and stability, due to reckless and unstable behavior in the Oval Office.

Both Ford and Pence owed their elevations to the Vice Presidency to their Presidents, but just as Ford was prepared to take over the Presidency. so will Mike Pence be ready when the time is right. which is likely sometime later this first year of the Trump Presidency, which seems assured to be abbreviated to probably more than James A. Garfield (199 days) but much less than Zachary Taylor (492 days).

The Age Issue In The Presidential Campaign

This blogger has discussed before the reality that we are likely to have the oldest President in American history being elected in the Presidential Election of 2016.

Only Ronald Reagan and Dwight D. Eisenhower were past 70 when President, with Ike only three months beyond 70 when he finished his time in the White House, while Reagan was just weeks short of 70 when elected, and almost 78 when he left office after two terms.  Of course, Reagan showed signs of mental decline in his second term, as his son Ron Jr testifies to, and there were many hints that there was concern of his staff and his wife about his ability to deal with the responsibilities, and efforts to “protect” and “shelter” him.

The point is that there is no question that anyone beyond the age of 70 is more likely to have a health crisis, such as a heart attack, a stroke, Alzheimer’s, or cancer, than someone under the age of 70.

Yes, we live in a time when many people continue to work full time, including Supreme Court Justices, US Senators and Congressmen, corporate leaders, media figures, actors and musicians, and average Americans.

And yes, many “senior citizens” work part time, some because they need to in an economic sense, and others because they wish to keep active and engaged.

No one is saying that people over 70 should be “farmed out to pasture”!  But the pressures of the Presidency are greater than any other job, and affect all of us in the country, unlike any other job.  And that makes it ever more important that the best possible Vice Presidential candidates are chosen, and that he or she be substantially younger than an elderly President, since the odds of a Presidential succession during a term of office is far greater statistically.

Also, we have not had a Presidential succession in 41 years since Richard Nixon resigned, and 52 years since a President died in office (John F. Kennedy), so we are fighting against the tides of history, and more so with a President over 70!

22nd Amendment In Effect In Second Half Of Presidential Term Of Office

When the 22nd Amendment was added to the US Constitution in 1951, after being passed by Congress in 1947, it limited Presidents to two complete terms of office, or eight years, OR if becoming President by succession during a term, allowing any successor who came to the Presidency in the last two years of the term, to be elected twice, but if succeeding during the first half of a Presidential term, such person could only be elected once.

Therefore, when Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded John F. Kennedy with one year and two months left of the term, he was eligible, in theory, to be elected twice, although he withdrew from running for a second full term in 1968.

No one else has had that opportunity, and since Richard Nixon resigned, and was replaced by Gerald Ford with two years and five months left in the term, no vacancy in the Presidency has occurred, now for the past 40 years, the longest such period since the first Presidential replacement in 1841.

Now that the second half of the second term of Barack Obama has passed its midpoint at 12 noon two days ago, Vice President Joe Biden has the situation, whereby IF he succeeded to the Presidency at any time from this point forward, he could, in theory, serve up to 10 years in the White House, from ages 72 to 82.

While this is highly hypothetical, it could happen, with the constant death threats against President Obama, with many of these reported threats discussed in my forthcoming book on Presidential Assassinations and Threats.

The point to be made is that IF Joe Biden suddenly became President before the 2016 primaries, caucuses and elections take place, this scenario could occur, and no one should do what is so common—to underestimate the potential of Vice President Joe Biden, who has added so much to the Vice Presidential office’s history in his six years as number 2 man in American Government.

John Boehner Has Failed As Speaker Of The House, And Needs To Resign!

Speaker of the House John Boehner has given in to the Tea Party lunatics in his Republican caucus, rather than showing courage and leadership, and needs to resign as a failure, and the worst Speaker of the House in modern history! To think also that Boehner is two heartbeats away from the Presidency under the Presidential Succession Law of 1947 is terrifying!

Boehner will be forced out anyway, because he has shown he is a gutless wonder, who said he would not take the country to the brink of bankruptcy and a massive fiscal crisis, and then gives in to the Tea Party crowd, including anarchists such as Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and Mike Lee, who know what they are doing will destroy the Republican Party future, but have grandiose ambitions, in the case of Cruz and Paul, to be President!

God forbid that either Cruz or Paul ever gets near the Oval Office, as that will be the downfall of American civilization! These men are no better than anarchists, really more dangerous to our nation, than any foreign terrorist groups could ever be, as their desire to destroy Barack Obama and ObamaCare is a sickness and a disease that gives not a damn about the effect on millions of Americans!

The only good thing coming out of this mess is the fact that the House Tea Party Caucus is starting to criticize Ted Cruz, really the Robespierre of the Tea Party Revolution, whose greed and ambition and self centered nature reminds one of the man who he so closely resembles—the witch hunting Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy, the perpetrator of the Red Scare in the early 1950s!

So the GOP may be imploding, destroying itself, which would be a blessing, as what is needed is a moderate, mainstream conservative party with a sense of responsibility to the nation’s economic and social future!

The “What Ifs” Of The Vice Presidency And Succession To The Presidency!

The “What If”s of history are a topic that continues to fascinate, such as Jeff Greenfield’s new book on a second term in the Presidency of John F. Kennedy, had he not been assassinated.

There are so many examples of situations where a Vice President could have become President, and the fortunes of history did not make that work out. And twice, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate could have become President, as next in line, and with no Vice President at the time of the situation!

A total of 15 circumstances could have occurred, as follows:

John Tyler came close to being killed on the USS Princeton on a Potomac River trip on February 28, 1844, when an explosion occurred, killing the Secretary of State and Secretary of the Navy, but Tyler was unhurt. Had he died, and with no Vice President, as Tyler had succeeded William Henry Harrison in 1841, the President of the United States Senate would have been President Pro Tempore Senator Willie P. Mangum of North Carolina, a Whig Party member..

James K. Polk had constant intestinal ailments during his one term in office from 1845-1849, and chose not to run again, and died 103 days after his Presidency. Had he died during the term, Vice President George M. Dallas would have been President.

If Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated in his first term, rather than his second, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin would have been President, and Andrew Johnson would not have been President.

If Andrew Johnson had been convicted on impeachment charges in 1868, President Pro Tempore Benjamin Wade, Senator from Ohio, would have been President.

If Grover Cleveland, who had surgery for jaw cancer in 1893, had died, Vice President Adlai Stevenson I, the grandfather of the two time Democratic nominee for President in 1952 and 1956, would have been President.

If William McKinley’s first term Vice President, Garret Hobart, had not died in 1899, he likely would have been Vice President in the second term, when McKinley was assassinated in 1901, and Hobart would have been President, and Theodore Roosevelt would not have been President.

If Woodrow Wilson, having suffered a paralytic stroke which limited his ability to do his job for the last 18 months of his Presidency, had either died or resigned, Vice President Thomas Marshall would have been President.

If Franklin D. Roosevelt had been killed in an assassination attempt 17 days before his Presidency began, John Nance Garner would have been President.

If Franklin D. Roosevelt had not “dumped” Vice President Henry A. Wallace for his fourth term, Wallace would have been President, and not Harry Truman.

If Harry Truman had been successfully assassinated in a 1950 attempt, Vice President Alben Barkley would have been President.

If Gerald Ford had been a victim in either assassination attempt against him in September 1975, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller would have been President.

If Jimmy Carter had been the victim of John Hinckley, who stalked him at a campaign event in October 1980, the same person who attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan less than six months later, Vice President Walter Mondale would have been President.

If George H. W. Bush had died of an atrial fibrillation during his term, Vice President Dan Quayle would have been President.

If Bill Clinton had been removed on impeachment charges or resigned during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Vice President Al Gore would have been President.

And if George W. Bush had been shot down by terrorists on September 11, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney would have been President

Try to imagine Andrew Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman NOT being Presidents!

And imagine Presidents Willie P. Mangum, George M. Dallas, Hannibal Hamlin, Benjamin Wade, Adlai Stevenson I, Garret Hobart, Thomas Marshall, John Nance Garner, Henry A. Wallace, Alben Barkley, Nelson Rockefeller, Walter Mondale, Dan Quayle, Al Gore and Dick Cheney as Presidents of the United States, which would have meant, instead of nine Vice Presidents succeeding to the Presidency during a term, it could have been 19 Vice Presidents out of 44, nearly half (leaving out Vice Presidents Andrew Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman from the list of 47 Vice Presidents)! Plus two Presidents Pro Tempore of the Senate would have been President!

The Vice Presidency NOT Fertile Hunting Ground For Future Presidents

Much of the history of the Vice Presidency, whoever has been chosen to be in that office has failed to have much impact, and has seldom been seen as a potential President.

When one looks at those who have held the office, one realizes that in most cases, even those who succeeded to the Presidency during the term, a total of nine times, would be highly unlikely ever to have become President, if it had not been for the death or resignation of the President during that term.

Would John Tyler and Andrew Johnson, picked as Democratic running mates of a Whig (William Henry Harrison) and Republican (Abraham Lincoln) Presidential nominee have ever had the likelihood of being a Presidential nominee on their own, if their Presidents had finished their terms of office?

Would Millard Fillmore, who succeeded Zachary Taylor, or Chester Alan Arthur, who succeeded James A. Garfield, have been likely Presidential nominees, if their Presidents had not died in office?

Would Theodore Roosevelt, who succeeded William McKinley, but was despised by Mark Hanna and conservatives in the Republican Party, and was put into the Vice Presidency to take him out of the Governorship of New York State, have been likely to be the GOP nominee in 1904?

Would Calvin Coolidge, who succeeded Warren G. Harding, have been likely to be the GOP nominee in either 1924 or 1928, after Herbert Hoover had made such a good impression as Secretary of Commerce during a prosperous seeming 1920s?

Would Harry Truman, who as a non controversial Senator, hardly thought about by many before he was selected to run with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, and never having any real ambition for the Presidency, have been likely to be the next nominee of a party that had passed by John Nance Garner and Henry A. Wallace?

Would Lyndon B. Johnson, as a Southerner, after not being allowed much of a role as Vice President under John F. Kennedy, and with an ambitious brother, Robert Kennedy, waiting in the wings to run for President in the future, been able to be the Democratic Presidential nominee in 1968?

Would Gerald Ford, who had absolutely no ambitions to be President, had remained in the Vice Presidency and Richard Nixon had not resigned or been removed from office by impeachment, would he have been the GOP Presidential nominee in 1976?

The answer in all cases clearly is NO, and when one considers that ONLY George H. W. Bush actually succeeded his boss, Ronald Reagan, the only time since Martin Van Buren succeeded Andrew Jackson 152 years earlier, it is clear that had none of the eight Presidents who had died or been assassinated in office, nor the one who resigned (Nixon) would have been succeeded in the Presidency by their Vice Presidents.

And when one considers that Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale (four years after), and Al Gore also failed to hold the office of the Presidency, one has to come to the conclusion that the likelihood, in reality, of a President Joe Biden being elected to follow President Barack Obama, is quite unlikely, less than 50 percent, as indicated in the previous blog entry today!

John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, And Barack Obama

When one looks at American history and the conflicts that arise between Presidents and Congresses, it is clear that all Presidents have battles with Congresses over some issues, even when their party is in control of both houses of Congress.

Some Presidents are more effective than others in accomplishing legislative goals, and of course, some Presidents face an opposition party Congress control in both houses, and much more rarely, in one of the houses of Congress.

But when one looks at the depth of hatred and refusal to cooperate of the Republican majority in the 112th Congress, and probably likely to continue in the 113th Congress in 2013-2014, it makes one want to look back and see when did such hatred and refusal to cooperate become a general reality in our 224 year history?

The answer is twice before the present situtation with President Barack Obama–the times of President John Tyler (1841-1845) and of Andrew Johnson (1865-1869).

Both were Democrats put on the Presidential ticket of the Whig Party (in the case of Tyler), and the Republican Party (in the case of Johnson), to bring Democratic party votes to Whig William Henry Harrison in 1840 and Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

Both Presidents Harrison and Lincoln died within weeks of their inauguration–Harrison after a month from pneumonia, and Lincoln by assassination six weeks into his second term.

When Tyler and Johnson, therefore, became President by succession, the party that had put them on the ticket as a balancing act electorally, totally turned against cooperation with both Presidents, considering them to be illegitimate successors, although constitutionally, legitimate.

So Tyler had battle after battle with Henry Clay and other Whigs, who were furious that he was President, and very little could be accomplished without constant battle,. There was also a motion to impeach Tyler, which, fortunately, went nowhere.

In the case of Johnson, things deteriorated quickily, and eventually, Johnson faced an impeachment trial on flimsy grounds, was found not guilty by the Senate, but had been weakened and repudiated, nevertheless.

In both cases, their major accomplishment was the acquisition of Texas under Tyler, and of Alaska under Johnson, the two largest states in land area.

The difference now is that Barack Obama legitimately won a majority of the popular vote twice, and still is rejected and mistreated by the Republican House, in a way not seen since the time of Tyler and Johnson!

The “Might Have Been” Vice Presidents And Presidents!

Every four years, Presidential candidates pick a running mate for Vice President, and every four years, there are potential running mates who are passed over.

Sometimes, these potential running mates for Vice President may feel as they are “a bridesmaid, instead of the bride”, when they come close to being the choice more than once.

And sometimes, a potential running mate passed over sees someone else become President by succession.

Examples in the last half century are numerous!

Florida Senator Bob Graham was on the “short list” for both Bill Clinton in 1992 and Al Gore in 2000.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty made the “short list” for John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

Missouri Senator Stuart Symington was the favored choice for John F. Kennedy in 1960, but Lyndon B. Johnson was picked instead for political and sectional reasons, to gain the support of the South for Kennedy, despite his Catholicism. Of course, Johnson went on to be President.

Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy was on the “short list” to be Vice President with Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, but Hubert Humphrey was selected instead, and McCarthy went on to become a major critic of the Vietnam War, and challenge Johnson in the New Hampshire primary in 1968. Who knows whether or not Johnson might have avoided a primary challenge altogether if he had picked McCarthy in 1964, although it is still likely that Robert Kennedy would have challenged Johnson for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1968 in any case. And of course, there were rumors that Kennedy was considered by Johnson to be his running mate in 1964, which would have made it impossible for Kennedy to challenge Johnson in 1968 altogether. But then, maybe Humphrey would have done so instead, without the trap of being Vice President under Johnson!

Mayor John Lindsey of New York City was on the “short list” for Richard Nixon in 1968, and had he been on the ticket and become Vice President, he would have succeeded Nixon after the President resigned due to the Watergate scandal!

When Nixon faced having to replace Spiro Agnew in 1973, due to scandal, he considered John Connally, former Democratic Governor of Texas, but who had become a Republican and was his Treasury Secretary, as his new Vice President, but knew that there would be a battle for him to be confirmed, so Nixon picked Gerald Ford instead, and Ford became President. Connally might have been President, if he had not alienated Democrats by switching parties!

So if things had worked out differently, we might have had President Symington in 1963, President Lindsey in 1974, or President Connally in 1974, and President Johnson might have had no challenge, run and defeated Nixon in 1968!

And poor Bob Graham and Tim Pawlenty were passed over twice each, by two different candidates for President in their parties! Graham never had another opportunity, and Pawlenty will not, either!