Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Secret Executive Orders?

Jane Meyer's new book, The Dark Side, in addition to dealing with torture on Bush's watch, also reveals that it is suspected that a secret executive order exists that changes the rules of succession we currently have in place.

New Yorker writer Jane Mayer's new book, The Dark Side, opens with a shocker. Apparently sometime in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan issued a "secret executive order" that in the event of the death of the president and the vice president "established a means of re-creating the executive branch." Reagan's order violated the express terms of the Constitution and governing statutes.
Congress last considered the problem of a dual vacancy in the presidency and the vice presidency when Harry Truman was in the White House. In the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, lawmakers stipulated that if both positions are empty, power passes first to the Speaker of the House or, if she, too, does not survive, to the president pro tem of the Senate. But relying on James Mann's earlier book Rise of the Vulcans, Mayer reports that Reagan "amended the process for speed and clarity … without informing Congress that it had been sidestepped." We don't know how. But if the order bypasses the speaker and the Senate president pro tempore in favor of an official in the executive branch, we have a recipe for a constitutional crisis.
Where does the Bush administration figure into all of this? Since Sept. 11 , the question of presidential succession has been a preoccupation of some of the most responsible statesmen in Washington. Most notably, James Baker joined the late Lloyd Cutler to chair a bipartisan AEI-Brookings Institution commission on the subject. But their recommendations went nowhere in Congress, and I have always wondered why the Bush administration was content to remain on the sidelines. After all, the administration is certainly serious about terrorism. Why, then, didn't it take energetic steps to make much-needed revisions to the law of presidential succession inherited from the days of Harry Truman?

Speaking of hubris.

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