What is Presidential Succession and Why Was It Formed?
This is the Mason very clean show your go-to lifestyle program covering everything from technology in gaming to movies T shows and podcasts to the Supernatural and Beyond Forty Year from Chicago USA. Would you host the unabridged Millennial Mason Mera pain? There's so much uncertainty involving the approaching elections from concerns about mail-in voting talks of voter fraud and even the commitment of a peaceful transfer of power author of Living Dangerously, the uncertainties of presidential disability and successful doctor Jim Ronin breaks down America's political institutions and the presidency line of succession. Thanks for joining me doctor Ronan. Thank you for helping me. So tell me about your book. How does come along so really just jumbled up on the issue of presidential disability succession. I was kind of surprised when it's a reading about the 25th Amendment about the guidelines that were in place, but what really surprised me is in the research the the number of times a month. The nation we really had close calls with this and it began with George Washington and we could really go right on through the modern-day and so I was I was surprised to see how frequently it had occurred and almost as surprised as how long it almost occurred. How long does it take you to do the research for this book? I'd say all told about three years that's not constant. I kind of looked at the disability issue at first and then when I took the things that came back or 25th amendment and so all told about three years kind of cold everything together and go to get it organized. I read some of your book and it's pretty amazing that you have thought you meant ation of some of the things that you were able to find like Diaries and letters how hard was it to find those fortunately, there's been a great deal that's been scanned and placed on life in particular the the Woodrow Wilson Library didn't excellent has done an excellent job with that and I was very fortunate in that regard because a lot of the material did prove if it's not embarrass wage. Into the president certainly embarrassing to those around and so that's the kind of information you would expect people who would written it that may have been culpable. They wouldn't just leave lying around Prestige, but fortunately a great deal that is available out there. So what is the presidential succession act? So there's been a few of them. The first was in 1792 and the 1792 act realized that okay. We have a vice president but there needs to be someone behind the vice president 1792 Act created the Congressional line of succession to place the senate pro-temp in the speaker in the line and then the cabinet after them, but the reason the 1792. Did that is not for real constitutional reasons, but because the Federalist who controlled Congress in 1792, openly despise Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson was the Secretary of State and he would have been just behind the Vice President in the line off. You said well, we can't have that. So they place the Senate pro-temp and speaker ahead of the cabinet. Of course that didn't stop everything from later becoming president, but that remained at line until 1886 and in 1886 Congress that all right, we shouldn't be involved in this they removed themselves and push the cabin up and the last one was in nineteen forty-seven which brought Congress back into it, but it flipped the positions and put place the speaker Senate pro-temp just in front of the cabinet. Why did they do that? I would think that it should be the other way, right somebody who's kind of outside, but I guess it didn't make sense. And that's the part. I didn't understand. I thought it was good the way it was no option. I'm right there with you most of us who study this agree that the Congressional line of succession is formed and that's really the the impetus behind the 1947 change the Truman Administration made the argument that they wanted some type of elected official in there. They argued that members of the cabinet weren't elected wage. But really as we look back we we think a great deal of it had to do with the close relationship that pirate Truman had with the speaker. And so as you said they're really did not make any sense to include Congress and really was fine the way it was but unfortunately that change was made and that is the line of succession that is in place right now. It's worth 20 and so it's not we don't just look back in nineteen forty-seven and say oh that was a mistake. It's unfortunately a mistake that we were living with right now. I was kind of confused about this part 2. So let's say we get all the way down to Speaker of the House does that mean the speaker is the new president and the pro temperature is now the vice president. Then who's the new speaker of the house or doesn't work like that it does and it doesn't and so this is what they said. The Congressional line is called. This is one of the major reasons that the constitution has no stability calls and says, well you can only serve in one branch time. And so if the speaker wage To ever become president they would have to resign as speaker. Now we would say. Okay. Well let speaker would do that but there's also a question of how long they would serve and so the speakers in a pro camera in this sort of gray area where they're in the line of succession, but it would only fall to them if both the President and Vice President weren't disabled. Where is that to occur off the speaker would become president. The speaker after was Eiffel Congress become president. We would guess the house would then select a new speaker. And so we could have a very odd situation where the speaker has become president. We're not sure for how long but now there's a new speaker. They wouldn't be able to just revert to their old job and the Senate pro-temp would still be there as if needed was there ever a consensus of what disability month and when it comes to president know John Dickinson was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in the constitution does contain the word disability. He raised the question. He said essentially will what is disability wage? And who is to be the judge of it? And he was kind of met with the proverbial crickets chirping that no one could really give him a good answer and we can make the argument we should be able to provide an answer until the 25th Amendment which was ratified till 1967. But that was a question throughout history and really in creating the 25th amendment was one of the drafters of the dealt with which was look, how could you it's one thing. If a person says I'm disabled that's fairly simple what happens if a president two big questions arose what happens when President Bush on willing to say they're disabled or perhaps unable if they had suffered a stroke as we saw in Eisenhower's case. So yeah, the question of who gets to determine disability really became problematic throughout history the 25th Amendment does create the mechanism by which the vice president cabinet can now demon I can actually see why presidents would want to hide their home. Ability because they're also our commander in chief by saying they're ill or they're sick or their week would actually tell other countries that hey we're primed to attack Iraq, I could see in the past why they would do that but currently in modern times attacks like that don't happen or do they absolutely going back in history 1,000 of your to keep things secret. We have Woodrow Wilson and Grover Cleveland a few examples of really just an unbelievable series of tasks for undertaking to conceal the prep true condition. But yeah, the the other issue that requires 25th amendment is there was no mechanism until president's were afraid that hey if I say, I'm disabled and even if it's only for a short time, I may be impeached or forced to resign but yet in modern times, it really becomes a question of that and I think the big thing we see with disability is that wage? It's not even so much invoking it. We we kind of compare the the President Trump may be transferring power earlier this month that if a president admits, they're disabled wage question immediately becomes what when are they recovered? And that's really something that I think a number of presidents are faced that okay if I come out to say this and if I admit to a disability am I going to be definitively show look I'm better now, I've clearly recovered and if not, does that kind of Hangover me and and raised questions moving forward and family thing. I thought that was really clever in this book that you had put in was that in 1790 and I'm not going to read the whole thing through but there was a representative of Maryland he voiced that you know, hey, we need to keep pushing past the issue of what disability means and the rest of the house is like, yeah, but let's abandon the issue and just forget about this and we're going to talk about other dog. Things and back then I could understand why they would do that. I mean they're coming from all their respective states by horse. So it would take them months to be able to convene and have a meeting so they have a limited amount of time to get things done. I get that but now what's the holdup I would think that we were get things done faster, but we kind of don't you arrange a great point there with well, what about the disability and what we saw the draft in the 25th Amendment and anytime this guide attention was just that the scenarios would come into place and it was okay. Well this model would work. All right, but what if if well what if that happened and finally we got the consensus in the 1950s and a lot of mercury after the Kennedy assassination that we cannot create a perfect model. So there is always going to be and what about this? What about that? And so let's try to you know make it as Broad and all-encompassing as possible. But yeah, that was really something that we had seen is throughout home. We have just well, okay, let's focus on this. Wow. This is problematic. Let's move on to other things. Did you submit a a shorter window? I think the big thing we encounter in modern-day is that some of the the succession like is really a tension and we mentioned the President Trump going to the hospital or earlier this month. We saw huge spikes in Google searches for the 25th Amendment and press attention and really almost as quickly as it came and it disappeared and so that's really what we face in the modern-day is just it doesn't get that much attention until something happens and that kind of Life page very quickly. Now what happens if you know something happens to the president early in his term like within his first year what happens then would there be another election or it just everybody moves and we wait until next election year and so really what is interesting is the line of succession is that it doesn't come into play unless both the president vice president were disabled. And so what would occur in that case in this club? Her the day after the inauguration for example in the nineteen. Eighty one when President Reagan was shot, which is 69 days into his presidency. If a president were to die or resigned the vice president takes over and serves rest of the term where that to happen. The vice president becomes president would then nominate someone to fill the vacancy in the device presence is it were a temporary disability like you would see wage and three or four of the 25th Amendment the vice president would serve until the president was able to serve again and then the vice president just returned to the vice presidency and it's like nothing happened. And so the speaker and Senate pro-temp or there. But again they they only come into play if the president vice president are simultaneously unable to serve as vice president can do it. They don't factor in now. Are there any rules that you know the song elifi a presidential election if they felt that he was or she was disabled in terms of notification that would be difficult. It would all revolve around Congress. And so the Constitution create wage. Guidelines for counting the Electoral College votes and that's something Congress has to do with the beginning of January but short of that. It doesn't provide all that much information. And so in terms of flat-out nullifying election, it would be unlikely if something happened where a president elect couldn't serve it all becomes a question of fact, when does it occur if it is prior to the electors counting casting their votes in each state that occurs on December 14th of this year is then up to the parties and what we would expect would happen with the vice president. Elect what just move up if it is after the Electoral College votes January 3rd, and before the inauguration the 20th Amendment governs that and says device off selected becomes president, but there is a gray area and that is between that's what would occur between December 14th and January 6th when the electors of voted but Congress has encountered accounted them yet dead. If that were to happen, I I wish I had a better answer but it would really touch off a constitutional chaos. We would expect the vice presidential could just serve but there could be a number of legal challenges because the electoral votes had already been cast now, how come they didn't use States as a model as to what to do because I imagine this wasn't just something that happened to the president. I'm sure it happens Governors Mayors even other countries, why didn't they use examples of that to be able to to make a rule? I did a lot of it has to do with like you said there were various guidelines in place. And when this first began and 1790s a lot of times there weren't guidelines in place. A lot of times it would just be well, we'll hold another election and the 1796 succession act did include it was some convoluted language but allowed for a special election if it was within the first two years of the term and then it was well if it was before birth, I believe it was March the election could be in November and it was it really is a segment presented the problem, but I think they did look at some State guidelines but a lot of them differ and similar to the the presidential issue in a way isn't even at the state level it gets attention, but it doesn't get all that much attention until it's a problem found. So what we see at the state level is most States like I'm here in Pennsylvania. We have a governor and lieutenant governor. We elect them differently. They are elected separately. But the lieutenant governor acts as a vice president would there there should anything happen so they did take a bit of the state model but I think was also a case where you know, some states hadn't paid attention just like the the nation has the early yet. Now when in grammar school and I'm thinking back in grammar school in high school how our founding fathers were considered leaders and natural born leaders and they were Generals and they were lawyers and philosophers and deep thinkers and reading your book. It really humanize the whole process that they were really winging ended. Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I think there was just so much that you you're tempted to create a problem and it was almost kind of like pulling in a string that you attempted to fix the problem and she created two or three more. I think a lot of that occurred with this issue of each time. They would try to address something it created a problem elsewhere. And so you really saw a repeat of history from the 1790s right up through 1967. We're talking almost hundred seventy years give or take of like we had said Congress looking at this and saying wow this month. Big problem we need to address it. They start and very quickly go. Wow. This is still a big problem. There are a lot of issues. How about we save this for another day and it's fine. Let's look up where else unfortunately. That's what the current now at what point do they think that it's going to get fixed? Because I don't imagine I mean, I can't imagine why they would want broad laws. I mean to specify things and pigeon-holed and to be so rigid it would actually make more problems than trying to correct. So when they're trying to make it broader wage, would that be like the only route to take in terms of the succession line? It's a very easy fix because the suspension line isn't mandated by the Constitution. And so the success of line could be repaired by a simple majority vote of Congress. They could say hey, let's remove ourselves from the line. Now, I've certainly over simplified that because it just said that would mean Congress would have to say we're crazy. Ourselves on the line access and they might be unwilling to do that. But yeah, I we kind of get into that question of broad versus specific. We see so much in the constitution of you want it to be this is just it with the framers attempting to to craft a document. They wanted it to be specific enough that we could look at it and say okay. Here's what we do. But you also of course had to leave it long enough so that it didn't have a ten or twenty year shelf life and and actually speaking the the vice presidency. That's what occurred. The the Constitution had talked about life. And then the Constitution said in the case of disability or inability death or resignation quote the same shall devolve on the vice president and no one really knew what that meant and really didn't match up until 1841 and William Henry Harrison died just 30 days into his term and everyone kind of looked at each other and said, well, what does this need? And it was John Tyler the vice president who said No, it means I take over and everyone kind of looked and said I guess okay. No one no one was really short just cuz he said it was it was much more money. It kind of balance abroad specific, you know, and this is what I meant that it really looks like they were winging it because if they didn't know what it meant, why did they put it in there in the first place? Yeah, no question. And I think it comes back in the end to how much do we want to get how deep in the weeds do we want to get this I guess would be that if we start down the line of attempting to label or quantify what constitutes a disability Do does it become too problematic do we leave things out and you know in talking about this with students whenever we look at something like the Bill of Rights they sit there there was an argument against the Bill of Rights and it was off too much of the ferris were saying we don't want the people to have rights, but they raised the question of well, if we start listing rights what happens if there isn't one there does that mean, you know, do we look back two hundred years and say, oh they had left it out. It was a mistake or they need to put it in there and the same thing of well, why would they leave this question in there? Why would they leave it so vague and on the one hand if they may maybe they left it for future generations to figure out or you said with the winging it maybe they looked at it and said for this is going to be very complicated to resolve. You know, what let's say let somebody else do that. Let's move on to the next section cuz that's that's something that resonates with myself. I can see meat myself doing that situation with like, hey, I wrote it you didn't ask me to do anything else. I wrote this one. I think we're all guilty of wow. That's that's a problem. But I'm really busy today. I'll do that tomorrow. I promise myself. I'm going to take care of that tomorrow and very cloudy tomorrow becomes the six months. Well, dr. Cronin. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate you being here. And for those listening where can I find find out more information about you and your book so I currently teach at Villanova University and I'm up there in the faculty website, but the book is available through Roman and Littlefield and their website and also on Amazon. This has been the mix and Vera Paine show. Thanks for listening can wait to hear more pets are wgnradio.com for exclusive content by Mason. Also, Mason. Nice book and Twitter at least and fear of pain. That's all one word and don't forget to share the show with your friends.