tv The Presidency Presidential Succession Act of 1947 CSPAN August 31, 2022 6:46am-8:01am EDT
good afternoon. my name is roy brownell, and i'm pleased to be the moderator of participant for the third and final panel. title for this panel is real world scenarios illness catastrophe and governmental response. the idea is to give a sense of the practical realities of the 1947 statute. now i have the great honor introducing our distinguished panelists. dr. joseph j fins he is the e william davis jr. md professor of medical ethics at wild cornell medical college. he's also visiting professor of law and solomon center distinguished scholar in medicine bioethics and law at yale law school. dr. finz will be speaking about the experience of speaker carl albert who during the 1970s for several months was first in line to the presidency.
dr. rose, mcdermott she is the david and mariana fisher university professor of international relations at brown university. she's also author of the book presidential leadership illness and decision making dr. mcdermott will be speaking about presidential and vice presidential illness in 1947 statute. mr. garrett graff, he's distinguished author of the book raven rock the story of the us government's secret plan to save itself while the rest of us die. mr. graph will talk about past efforts of the united states government to preserve its continuity. dr. rebecca c lebow is the director of porzio governmental affairs. she's also author of the dissertation the passage of the 25th amendment nuclear anxiety and presidential continuity and several related articles. she will talk about the threat of nuclear weapons and the 1947 statute. finally ambassador a b culverhouse. he's the former white house
council the president ronald reagan is currently co-chair of continent of government commission. ambassador called the house will discuss the perspective of a white house counsel. i'm presidential health and life succession matters. earlier panelists have discussed many of the important theoretical concerns about having lawmakers in the line of succession including the possibility of a partisan partisan control the white house changing hands that is to say that the will of the american voters from the previous presidential election would suddenly be reversed. i would like to amplify many of those remarks and discuss some concrete examples that demonstrate how close the nation has come to actually implementing legislative succession to the presidency. thankfully the nation has never experienced situation which both the president and vice president have died. otherwise left office at the same time. nor has the nation endured an extended period when both the president and vice president have been capacitated. but the nation has come very close on several occasions. i believe a handful of historical episode should make
clear the notion legislative succession the presidency company by a change in partisan control. the white house is not a remote abstraction, but it's a very real possibility. as noted earlier on the 1792 presidential succession statute theute the successors after vice president with the senate president pro tempore ppt for short followed by the speaker. there were several near misses to legislative succession under authority of the statute. in 1844 john tyler democrat the president that year he was aboard the naval vessel the uss, princeton. when a massive can explore killing two cabinet secretaries who were topside at the time? purely through good fortune. the president happened below deck and was spared. had he not been spared because there was no ppt because there was no vice president. ppt at the time senator willie mangum of the wig party came close to becoming acting present. this would have meant for partisan control.
a change in parts control of the executive branch in 1865 following assassination of president abraham lincoln democrat. andrew johnson was elevated presidency. just weeks afterward and with no vice president. johnson became seriously ill he was so sick. in fact that his secretary of state and secretary of war were sent scrambling trying to track down the ppt. the ppt was senator lafayette foster who was a republican? the problem was that at the time foster was in the wilds of the new mexico character conducting oversight on us government. treatment of native american tribes cabinet secretaries were only able to find contact center foster by sending a courier writing horseback from the nearest outpost. after some effort the career finally located the senator senator in a remote corner of the territory sitting peacefully by a campfire. the telegram beseech center foster to head toward the nearest big city to establish communication with washington dc in case he had it become acting
president. three years later bringing impeachment trial of andrew johnson in 1868. the senate came within a single vote of removing the president and elevating center foster's successors ppt senator ben wade to the presidency. like foster wade was republican. as has been mentioned in 1886 legislative succession was removed from the statute books. as we know in 1947 lawmakers reinserted the speaker and the present pro tem in that order into the line of succession. since democratic president harry truman did not have a vice president in 1945 until 1949 republican speaker. joe martin. perhaps came closer to becoming acting president than any other speaker. not long after the bills adoption president truman went on official trip to brazil. while on this trip his motorcade almost drove over the edge of a precipice. speaker martin recalled that quote truman while on a visit to south america came dangerously
close to plunging down a mountainside in his auto. the news was a sobering reminder of how near i was living day to day on the edge of great responsibility unquote. as was the case with tyler and johnson barson switching the white house could easily have a curve. each of these examples until instances when a lawmaker could easily have become acting president due to the possibility of a vacancy in both the presidency and the vice presidency. what about situations in which both the president and the vice president are incapacity? history affords at least one such example here as well. in 1985 president reagan underwent surgery to move polyps from his intestine. prior to being anesthetized reagan transferred the powers and duties of his office vice president george bush under section 3 of the 25th amendment while acting president bush decided on why play some tennis. however, during his match the acting president backped furiously to retrieve a lob tripped fell hit his head and
was briefly knocked out cold. thus for a very short period of time both the president and the vice president for unconscious. several years later the vice president's military aid for mark both situation quote we figured for at least a few seconds speaker tip o'neill was in charge, but we decided not to tell him. o'neal course was a democrat. what the episodes from the tyler johnson truman and reagan presidency show is that the nation has come perilously close to implementing legislative succession. and to a sudden change in party control the executive branch. now some may be wondering did lawmakers themselves ever think that they might become acting president and the answer is yes indeed. several lawmakers have made tentative plans for what they would do. if they were confronted with the scenario. as dr. ornstein alluded to earlier during the impeachment trial of president johnson, senator wade considered who be in his future cabinet. he huddled with republican
presidential nominee ulysses grant to discuss the matter. even went so far as to off with the post of secretary interior to someone and he made arrangements the distribution of of federal patronage in one state. speaker martin certainly took possibility of becoming acting president seriously. he later admitted that had he had considered whom he might name a secretary of state. quote, i never gave systematic thought what i would have done or whom i would have appointed to my cabinet if you had fallen to my lot suddenly to become acting present. but the idea alert in my mind that i might ask herbert hoover to return to washington as secretary of state. his great experience both as cabinet officer and as president would have been almost indispensable to me unquote. the closest any lawmaker has apparently come to indicating that he or she might not serve for any extended period of time as acting president was senator carl heat served as ppt 1950s in the 1960s. the senator remarked that had he been elevated the oval office you'd have taken the following
steps. quote i'd call congress together. of the house elected new speaker, then i'd resign and let him become acting president unquote. interestingly hayden's active self-denial did not involve his declining job altogether. and allowing to pass to the secretary of state instead hayden indicated if you would ensure that the acting president would come from the legislative branch. i will defer to the next panelist dr. fins in a mom will discuss experience of speaker albertsons who's experience has also relative relevant in this context. finally, i would note that speaker dennis hasterter did concede that. he did not want to become acting president, but unlike senator hayden pastor indicated he would have accepted the responsibility. quote, i really didn't want to be president permanent or temporary pastor call. and with my wife jean who wasn't thrilled with my present job. she wouldn't be happy with this. the opt-out provision in the 1947 statute might have seemed to track but i understood that
it wasn't really an option because if you've got a constitutional crisis and you're the speaker. you couldn't pass it up. you had to accept. unquote the words and actions of wade martin hayden and hastert each indicate the lawmakers themselves have given some serious thoughts becoming acting president. what i hope this brief presentation has outlined because the prospect of a speaker or ppt becoming acting president and potentially flipping partisan control. the white is a very real one. this is reflected by the fact that lawmakers themselves have given some thought as to what they would do. were they to become acting president. question for the public to consider is does having lawmakers in the line of succession manifest most sensual sensible approach for addressing executive succession inability? now, let me turn matters over to dr. fence. thank you so much reb and a real big. thanks to dean ferrick and john rogan for having me on the panel
as a physician. i feel a little bit out of place, but i really am honored to be with you and as a position, we don't go anywhere without our slides so i'm gonna share some slides because my verbal abilities are not as keen as my lawyer friends my legal colleagues, so i'm gonna talk about the carl albert experience and and bipartisanship and the dual vacancies that happened during the watergate era and i think it it's relevant and a lot of interesting primary sources. i'll share that i think speak to the issues that we've already discussed. let me just tell you a little bit how i got into this as a country doctor. this is not my usual line of work and i was invited to i think the last meeting of the presidential ability a conferences that were hosted by president ford and carter and and convened by the white house
physician and jim tool organized it and it was december of 1996 and and i was invited along with george annis who was a health lawyer at boston university because i done some writing and there's a piece there on the side on advanced directives and advanced care planning. i think one thing to remember when we think about presidential disability and succession is that at presidents are awesome also husbands and potentially wives of spouses and parents and grandparents and family dynamics are going to play into decisions about incapacity. and so i had i have been asked to be there to talk about the family role in some of these decisions and and to and to weigh in on some medical issues and there were a number of white house physicians who were in attendance including burton lee. a general admiral a general hutton and others so that was fascinating experience when i was a young scholar at the time and i felt a little bit out of
place, but for me the headline was this curious phrase that that senator by of course wrote the 25th amendment was there and in the middle of the of a break he was telling us a story and it kind of felt like you were listening to abe lincoln. i mean he had that of funcular character, you know, just authentic midwestern patriotic equality and he was telling us this story about the dual vacancy during the watergate era. of course. nick's agnew had resigned nixon could be removed or could resign before the vice president was nominated and then carl albert, you know under the succession act would assume assume office and then he said that there was a fear of the presidency going to his phrase the party opposite and and he was concerned about that that would as if it had been a coup d'etat, and and so he told us this this anecdote
which would stayed with me for years and years and years and that and that carl albert the story. was that carl albert would resign as speaker. so a democratic house could elect the minority leader jerry ford to serve as speaker who would then succeed on to the presidency so we wouldn't have this party opposite scenario and a republican within replace a republican and and and and carl albert and and and birds five were very concerned about any appearance of a political gain with nixon's removal because he had committed crimes or because of constitutional violation like it was not a political impeachment it was because of the legal issues and again has been said earlier, you know, there could have been a disincentive for nixon to resign because it would have gone to the party. so there was this gentleman's agreement and and over the years. it's been a sort of like sort of side hobby of mine to look for
evidence of this and when i was giving us a talk out and and grand rapids, i got it to private tour of the ford museum and i found some interesting documents there and and you know one is a letter from jerry ford from october of 1973 recommending three people to be the new vice president and he recommended john connolly melvin laird was the defense secretary nelson rockefeller who he ultimately chose his own vice president or ronald reagan, and he said i will not go into the reasons for my views as i'm sure you're familiar with reasons in each instance and then and then of course the nixon letter resigning in 1974 interestingly noted here 11:35 a.m. initial by henry kissinger hk, and then of course here is the the the index card that that came to his when he when he was actually took the oath of office and and i want to
draw your attention to these three pictures on on this sidebar here this frame, um, you see agnew and carl albert ford and albert and and rockefeller and carl albert. the continuity here is in the speaker. he's the only person who hasn't shifted in this in this musical chairs during this cast of characters, and so so i've been very interested and they didn't have anything when i was at the ford museum about this and and and and it kind of stayed with me and then during the the middle part of the trump administration. um, i was wondering about this story over and over again about this this sort of act of bipartisanship this this patriotism that carl albert would actually resign this speaker ship. so uh member of the party opposite could become president and and have continuity with nixon's party and and i really got interested in this so i really wanted to know was buys anecdote true and why hadn't it
been i'd be very interested in in garrett graff's comments on this because you're sort of wonderful book on watergate, but why hasn't this been a more prominent feature of the watergate story? and could i find evidence of it and and more sort of aspirationally could this inspire the kind of bipartisanship that that greg jacob was talking about there were sort of lacking right now, and of course it would have implications for future vacancies. so i i contacted the birch by archives at the university of indiana and and try to reach senator by who unfortunately at that stage of his life was was not in a position to to remember that that part of his life and and had been suffering from some illnesses, but they did very nicely recommend that i speak to jay berman who i think is on this panel on the zoom today and he was a senator bias cheapest staff and he very graciously had lunch with me at the century club in new york. city and we talked about this phrase party opposite. he said, you know, it sounds
like senator by and and and then i found some more information that albert didn't want to take a partisan advantage and become president and and he did not know about this plan to resign but jay told me that he recall the possible ted sorensen memo advising carl albert about this that and the other and and he said maybe it's in the in the in the carl albert arcot. so i looked in the carl albert archives and i found a 19 page memo that that ted sorensen who of course was president kennedy's alter ego and and before we had chief of staffs and the white house, he was essentially his his cheapest staff and and he and and there was this memo joel jankowski who was albert's legislative aid who i also spoke to who organized his papers did not recall seeing document but there was in in the
archives and it's a remarkable archives and there's you know, you know history, you know rhymes it repeats itself. well, it's very interesting that secretary johnson's law firm. paul weiss was the same law firm that that ted sorensen was at and it's interesting if you look at this letter to carl albert dated, november 8th 1973 after the midnight massacre, right and and things are really heating up with watergate if you read it it says in closes at first draft, and i'd be happy to talk with you. yeah in at your convenience. um, and then he says i admire your recognition of the need for advanced planning. so this is not the first, you know conversation or exchange the two of them had um, we see carl albert planning prospectively this and and the document is really extraordinary and and we see in this document. um, it's it's on the first page
the introduction talks about an unexpected vacancy in that office the presidency before the confirmation of a new vice president and speaking to the issue before of this perceived conflict of interest. there's a little caveat here that that ted sorens and says to him should a new vice president be confirmed before a vacancy occurs or should the president serve out his term. this entire memorandum will become unnecessary and can be destroyed if you fear that it's existence if discovered might be misinterpreted as evidence of an improper motivation on your part for the president's ouster. two points one this the political nature of this of this kind of preparation and looking that he was doing it for political game, which was totally countered to what to what to what he intended and second the beautiful writing of ted sorensen if you want to read a wonderfully written book that you could teach writing with
retention's book counselor. it is an extraordinary extraordinary piece of writing and that one sentence is just is just you know, you know ask not what you can do for carl albert. that's what you can do for your country kind of literature here the second point of this document on page 17. i was sitting at this very desk in my office reading through this document and they're all kinds of things about selecting your cabinet of that who you keep on and and and how much you get paid and where you live and all these know these things and i was saying okay, i guess there's nothing here then on page 17. i came to this point other decisions to be made in the very in the first week and i and i walked because it was so exciting and he says you should have a vice president soon. good point. it's if as part of your non-partisan approach you want jerry ford and that is still appropriate you could include that in your statement of on taking the oath of office. if not, you can seek suggestions
and discuss possibilities in the series of meetings outgoing above but here's the point and it's remarkable because sorency and carl albert encapsulate in their disagreement the very issues that we've been talking about today. he says i question whether it is necess either necessary or desirable to commit yourself to resigning in favor of a republican vice president. that would only heighten the impression of political instability. in our government and then he goes on to talk about the succession act. you are the legitimately chosen successor selected by our most representative body under a long-standing plan adopted by the legislative branch. this is stressed along with the non-partisan nature of your administration the oath of taking statement which speaks in terms of your remaining only till january 1977. so he was he was also going to intend to limit his term as
this, you know, sort of funny unexpected president. so some summary comments here first of all their lessons and their limits to the watergate analogy first albert and sorensen were good faith actors. we can't necessarily assume that in the hyperpartisan world. we live in today. albert carl albert's way of being a patriot was to avoid partisanship. sorensen's way of being a patriot was to maintain government stability by adherence to the sixth session act but partisanship not bipartisan patriotism. i think is what we are dealing with today and hyperpartisanship makes party opposite resignations impossible. can you imagine speaker gingrich or pelosi seating the presidency in a clinton or trump era i can't next point is the the irony that that even though carl albert was a speaker and was a
representative the legislative branch. he was actually favoring the continuity of the of the party and the executive branch and ted sorensen as a creature of the executive branch having worked with president kennedy in the kennedy. white house was actually favoring the legislative succession under the succession act so you you can chew on that. the next point is is that dual vacancies are going to be much more likely for biological reasons or maligned threats and here you see up in the corner is a covid spike proteins on on the virus and while we've been meeting a news just came out from the washington post that merrick garland and and secretary ramundo have both tested positive for covid and members of the white house staff have tested positive for covid having been all at the grid iron dinner on saturday night earlier in the week. so so that this is not a hypothetical that the president and vice president could have been exposed. i'm not saying they were but they could have been in that
ecosystem and been exposed. so this is not a hypothetical the next point is malign threats. i happen to have the honor of serving on the national academies commission that looked at the havanescent room and and as we know there was there was a report that there might have been that. same threat at the executive office the eob and the white house campus the next point. i'm grateful to rev for this. is that the pace of of transitions you have a slow burn rebs phrase with a political scandal. the sorensen letter was november the network nixon resignation was august compared to the rapid explosion of problems with a biological or malign for you're not going to have time for ted sorensen to write an elegant 19 page memo the odds of a dual vacancy are quite high to a party office it and and i and i think everybody was right you're gonna have a partisan litigation about the eligibility of the
speaker, um as a non-officer member of the house which is going to lead to an tremendous amount of instability during a crisis. so my final my final point, okay? my in albert's instinctive worry of the presidency moving to the party opposite is really worth heating aristotle with characterize their concerns as phoeneces virtuous practical wisdom. losing both the president and a vice president in a dual vacancy is a is a national trauma switching parties would seem too confound at and i think it's something to be avoided. so, um, i think we need as many of the other scholars have said more eloquently than i we need a more responsive and agile process. we need to resolve the eligibility question prospectively and i think we need to avoid causing political instability with risk of party opposite scenarios by keeping succession in the legislative in
the executive branch so that we don't have a party opposite scenario. so i'll stop there. thank you. thank you, dr. fence, dr. dermot. thank you very much. and dr. fins. you're a tough act to follow. i wanted to also start by thanking dean 48 our dean ferrick and john rogan and rabb for inviting me to this panel and for organizing and orchestrating not only this panel, but previous ones that we've done on the presidential succession issue. i wanted to talk a little bit about sort of these real-world examples that rev just spoke about as well of incidents and hypotheticals where both the president and the vice president could be either killed or incapacitated in a way that causes this gap between the 25th
amendment and the 1947 act to really become a salient challenge. so, you know as many of the people have on the previous two panels have discussed. there's really this challenge that relates to examples where a president can die or become incapacitated and the vice president may or may not take over but there may be other instances hypothetical or real where the vice president also becomes ill and incapacitated. um, so certainly one recent example of this certainly not the only one as other speakers have spoken about had to do with trump having covid in the fall of 2020 and the question arises as to what would have happened if pence and others including pelosi or a lady or others had also become infected. and for me the the issue is not just illness in terms of whether or not these people would have died but other forms of incapacitation.
so what happens if somebody isn't dead, but they're somehow incapacitated in a way that makes it difficult for them to make appropriate decision making but not so incapacitated that the people around them are really willing to invoke the fourth section of the 25th amendment to try and take them out of power. um, i think the recent example with trump having covid is one example, but certainly not the only one where someone like mike pence wouldn't want to look like he was trying to coerce or co-op power away from trump by saying, you know, he needs to step down from power obviously trump wasn't going to invoke the third section and say i personally don't feel like i'm in good enough shape even though i'm in the hospital even though i have a high fever even though i'm getting all this to really just charge the the duties of my office sufficiently and so i'm going to pass it over to penn's temporarily as other presidents have done most notably when
they're having colonoscopies and they are under anesthesia for a period of time and they pass it over to the vice president. he wasn't willing to do it, but then you're in the situation where the fourth section requires somebody like a vice president like pence or otherwise to say this person is not capable of being in charge. um, there's iconic examples of this in the past the most commonly referred to have to do with woodrow wilson after he had a major stroke in office in 1924 and he members of his cabinet. question his capacity and in fact, he was incapacitated. he was in fact completely paralyzed on half of his body and marshall decided to challenge whether or not he was capable of discharging the duties of his office and that along with wilson's wife edith
and his secretary joseph tumulty and his doctor robert grayson and they all got together and decided to pull the wool over the cabinets eyes, and they brought um, marshall and other members of the cabinet into the sick room where the paralyzed side of his body was on away from entrance to the door. they closed the drapes so that no one could see how incapacitated he was and he could sort of partly speak on one side of his mouth. and so he appeared to look like he was you know still functioning although in fact. is not um, they did not they were not able to pursue this was of course before the 25th amendment they weren't able to pursue moving him out of office and when he recovered somewhat the first thing he did was to take marshall out of office. so there was some revenge and some payback for that and but of course there's other examples of
presidents who are incapacitated, but not dead, you know, and we can think of presidents who were extremely ill john kennedy extremely ill with addison's disease roosevelt extremely ill with end-stage cardiovascular disease where he was fine for four or five hours a day, but the other hours really not able to function completely. so here the issue is not just one of people being killed but also issues of incapacitation short of death, and i think we've raised throughout the day several examples of where this could happen as a mass event as others have mentioned one is obviously the issue of the insurrection and i think greg jacob raised this is an issue. what would have happened if during the insurrection those who breach the capital had actually had a more organized opposition had had a machine guns and had managed to actually kill a majority of congress.
how would we have thought about what that would have happened? um and the issue raised also by normal ornstein about a nuclear attack. i'm sure rebecca will talk about that in a few minutes as well, but it might not just be a suitcase bomb but in the wake of, you know attacks in ukraine as greg jacob mentioned we can imagine other forms of nuclear attack not just coming from russia, but from north korea or from china if they were if we were to engage in a more extensive war over taiwan and so on so these are cases where mass events and i hadn't thought about the venice syndrome that that dr. fins just raised where large numbers of the cabinet as well as congress could be taken out in a single event. you can imagine chemical weapons doing the same thing in a circumstance where there wasn't necessarily a designated survivor as was mentioned that
the beginning of panel today by our distinguished keynote speaker. johnson so i think that this challenge is this gap right between the 25th amendment and the 1947 act and also issues of incapacitation short of death and what happens with these mash mass casualty events. so you have this third section that requires the president to say he is impaired but most presidents are unwilling to do it except for very short periods of time where he doesn't actually look impaired. oh, i'm going under anesthesia. it's not that i'm actually really not capable of discharging the duties of my office and then you have the fourth section which requires that others remove him. but those others may also be severely impaired themselves whether it's with a biological disease like covid a chemical attack a nuclear attack or killed in a mass event. i think professor ornstein also mentioned the shooting of the republicans where steve scalise
was severely injured. and those who remain may be unwilling to take on the political challenge of trying to remove somebody who's incapacitated who's unwilling to say that they're incapacitated. so you're in this situation under the 1947 act where the vice president if that person is impaired if that person is dead what happens if others down the line of succession are impaired as well like with a pandemic with a very serious mass casualty event involving chemical or nuclear weapons, and these are not real hypotheticals because in fact you have a situation where things similar to this have happened in the past and have come very close to happening particularly with the recent events regarded covid and president trump where in fact he was much more ill based on the treatments. he received then was reported to the public and you can imagine with them with the super
spreader events that they had for example around that amy comey barrett nomination that many many members of congress could have been impaired at the same time and the cabinet in ways that would have left us in a true constitutional limbo. so i will stop there and thank you very much and look forward to the next presentation. up. i think that you are muted. thank you, dr. mcdermott, mr. groff. good afternoon, everyone. it's a pleasure to be here among such an august group of scholars and historians many of whom research i have drawn from and histories that i have read as i've been doing my own research on continuity of government and watergate and 9/11 and the jfk lbj transition on november 22nd 1963. i'm here today to talk a little bit more broadly from a
historian's perspective about the idea of continuity of government a little bit more broadly than we've been discussing it in the presidential succession act realm and to talk about it a little bit more in how it would have actually looked and felt over the course of the cold war. in actuality had any of this come to pass rather than in the theoretical. i i believe it it is deeply important to put the presidential succession act in the context of the cold war when it came about and the next speaker will address some of that in part because i believe that it really is this marriage of the american presidency and nuclear weapons and the advance is of nuclear technology that really drove the collapse of space and time that reshaped the
way that america thinks about its presidency. because one of the things that you have to understand about presidential succession is the way that it is linked to presidential communication. and that for much of america's history. we simply didn't have that close a tab on our president that for long periods of time the president would be away from washington and communication would be very slow. as late as september 1935 when franklin roosevelt went to dedicate the hoover dam. his motorcade became lost in the canyons on the route back to las vegas and he disappeared out of contact for an entire afternoon. no one knew where the president was nor when he might reappear as late as 1945 when harry truman took office the vice president didn't actually even receive secret service protection and went about his
day on his own around washington checking in from time to time whether anyone needed him. within a few short years though as soviet missiles reduced monumental decisions to only 15 minute windows such prolonged periods with the president in communicato or the vice president's whereabouts unknown would be history. the need to command such powerful weapons on a hair trigger alert pushed the office of the president into a new era of technology new procedures built around a commander in chief who required instant reliable communications powerful new transportation and detailed instructions that ensure that there would never be a leadership vacuum. a different way of thinking about so many of the presidential toys that we think of the majesty of air force one the gleaming marine helicopters, the hulking armored limousines and the expansive motorcades is to think of them.
as communications tools necessary to remain in contact with the pentagon and to launch nuclear weapons from wherever the president may be. the nuclear age transformed the presidency from a single person working in the white house to a much broader idea a long line of men and women stretching through both houses of congress and through every cabinet agency. the presidency literally had an a team a b team and even a c team in the cold war and in the event of an emergency each team and its designated president had a different role and different evacuation destination. the alpha team which in most cases included the elective prep the elected president would remain in washington and by design be sacrificed in the opening minutes of a nuclear attack. the bravo team would head to mount weather the sprawling secret bunker in the hills of virginia built to withstand nuclear attack and the charlie team would head out to other bunkers and relocation facilities around the capitol
some of the nearly 100 different bunkers airborne command posts available within an hour of washington that the government would activate in an emergency. each of course of the offices in the presidential line of succession as we have heard discussed today has its own unique line of succession dozens of civilian and military officials populate the line creating a possible path where the principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition technology and logistics and the us attorney for the district of minnesota quickly end up being among the most important figures in american politics. what began in the 1950s and as an all-encompassing nationwide push for civil defense to to ready every household workplace village and city for soviet attack school children of a certain age. will of course remember bert the turtle and the duck and cover drills of the 1950s in 1960s
gradually shrunk with advancing military technologies. to just a single plan. the evacuation of the nation's elite leaders to bunkers hidden under mountains but what does that actually look like in the moment? one of the things we've talked about is the time it would take for the courts to decide or members of the presidential line of succession to decide how or when they would choose to succeed to the presidency. through much of the cold war during the continuity of government operations. it actually looked like something very different members of the presidential line of succession how to telephone number at the pentagon. they were supposed to call an emergency. and there was no comprehensive or organized way to tell who had survived an attack and who hadn't. system would have left a navy captain air force major or whoever happened to be on duty answering that particular phone in the joint war room to choose
effectively themselves who to designate as the presidential successor. the possibility exists in a report robert mcnamara's team pulled together that the man to wield presidential authority and dire emergencies might be selected by a single field grade military officer. in the decades ahead the system got a little bit better, but not much. as late as the reagan administration the pentagon and fema realized that they needed to institute more elaborate mechanisms to ensure a successor's legitimacy. their plan called for special coded communications that could prove a successor's identity and establish the highest ranking official still alive within the us government the system that still exists today still overseeing by fema and today that encompasses a secret combination of gps trackers cell
phones and secure communication systems. at the same time though. there was still a great deal of concern if people have raised a couple of times over the course of today about what what what and how you prepare a so-called lesser or minor cabinet official step into the presidency. and so in the reagan years they answered this with a unique. highly secret program known as the presidential successor support system the ps3. which if i have would guess a couple of the other speakers today might have some more classified knowledge about than i do. who participated in those reagan year operations? the ps3 was an innocuous sounding program by run by the national program office, which was run by vice president george hw bush. that that's pre-selected five
separate ps3 teams of former respected officials like howard baker the one-time senate republican leader former cia director richard helms former un ambassador, gene kirkpatrick former cabinet. secretary james schlesinger and even folks like donald rumsfeld and -- cheney. who all were given special instructions for evacuation and in an emergency the pre-assigned ps3 teams would report to different bunkers command posts and continuity facilities to be ready to serve a presidential successor. so when someone like a commerce secretary or agriculture secretary would arrive at an emergency site he or she would find a white house staff and government already in waiting including an experienced leader like don rumsfeld or -- cheney already selected and in position as their chief of staff designee. a full records of the ps3
program will be declassified in the years ahead and we have no idea whether there's a similar program that exists today, but this problem of how you prepare a successor to assume the presidency not in a theoretical sense, but in an immediate sense when minutes and hours matter is one that our government is still wrestling with today a third generation of doomsday staffers are settling into life inside these bunkers many of which are still remain staffed 24 hours a day. 365 days a year in the wake of 9/11. and while some new facilities have been built since 9/11 the majority of our governments plans to preserve itself and our nation during an attack in the 21st century still rely on plans developed during an era where slide rulers existed as some of the most advanced technology available to the planners.
thanks very much. thank you very much, mr. groff. dr. lebeau thank you rev and thank you to dean fierick and john rogan for inviting me back. and also i'm thrilled to follow garrett graff who was kind enough to let me read one of his earlier manuscripts. so i am here today to talk about the effect of nuclear anxiety on the push for presidential succession and inability reform in the form of the 19th. president 1947 presidential succession act. so from the nation's founding through the 1947 presidential succession act questions of presidential succession had frequently tapped into deep-seated anxiety is about the durability democratic government and specifically whether it could withstand the threats posed by disruptive unplanned changes the nation's highest office. following the united states use of atomic bombs against japan at the end of world war two those
anxieties took on new gravity. mainly by existing nuclear weapons have already set off chain reactions through american society and within every one of its institutions stated the bulletin of atomic scientists. the bulletin of atomic scientists recognize that nuclear anxiety had become a stable of american popular and political culture overnight, but also that it was difficult to quantify in response. they designed the doomsday clock in 1945 as a gage of how close mankind is the destroying itself with midnight in apocalypse. but the development of the atomic bomb came a concomitant increase in presidential power and a strong desire for stability at the top ashland of the united states government at all times. the president had the zeus-like power to destroy an entire nations and snuff out millions of lives in an instant and so all other powers which are available by compar. in 1945 the first superficial cultural representations of hiroshima and nagasaki such as the new atomic cocktail made of her no and jin appeared to
celebrate america's victory in the pacific it even these festive representations of us power demonstrated that the awesome part of the bomb one step needed was never far from the american thoughts. any light-heartedness on the topic student gave way as one sociologist wrote at the time to an intrinsic paralyzing anxiety. i turned this nuclear anxiety to find here as the fear of nuclear or in its consequences. the first images of the destruction caused by the bomb were grainy photographs in life magazine on august 20th, 1945, but the sense of foreboding was implanted in the nation's psyche by john hersey's charisma account of the human suffering published in the august 31st, 1946 issue of the new yorker. christie's articles were developed into the best-selling book hiroshima and depicted scenes two horrible to imagine such as dress fabric motifs permanently imprinted into women's bodies and the burned skin of children hanging from their bases. the destructive possibilities of this new weapon were immediately portrayed on film for a popular
audience that year. for example the truman white house depicting the bombing of japan title the beginning or the ads was provided by the president himself in an early interview make your film gentleman and put this message into your picture. it's called the men and women of the world that they are at the beginning or the end sherman. it was meant to suggest that the world was it a tipping point because the harnessing of atomic energy well in the senate treatment had formed the special committee to investigate the national defense program and sturge as its chair 1941 through 1945. talks with investigating all war plants truman had sent inspectors to find out what the extraordinary installations in tennessee and washington were being used for. unbeknownst to all but those the most top secret clearance. these were two of the three manhattan project locations for the atomic bomb was being developed, but secretary of war had another stinson asked herman not to look into these installations explaining that it was the greatest project in the
history of the world. that was mostly good and that many of the people engaged in the work did not even know their own purpose. truman believing stimson to be an american patriot took him at his word at the time and just called off the investigation. truman left the senate to become vice president on january 20th, 1945 and then a few short months later on april 12 1945 the final sudden presidential succession before the nuclear age took place when franklin roosevelt died in warm streams, georgia of a cerebral hemorrhage roosevelt's death shock the nation and abruptly transforms harry truman from a relatively unknown and brand new vice president to a wartime president. children was on capitol hill. what house speaker sam rayburner told him that the president's press secretary. steve early his telephone that the vice president was monitored in the white house. german ran through the capitol basement back to his office to get his hat and then with his driver fought his way through rush hour traffic to the white house without any secret service protection as garrett just pointed out. when he arrived in the private
partners of the white house first lady eleanor roosevelt informed in the president was died. within two hours and 24 minutes of fdr's that's human was sworn in and shortly thereafter informed of the existence of the bomb. the nation's leaders gathered in the cabinet room of the white house including secretary of state edwards fitness now next in line of succession speaker of the house, sam rayburn and house majority leader john mccormick in a show support to keep the gears grinding on the wheels of democracy. after the swearing and ceremony truman asked the cabinets remain and stimpson stayed behind when they were dismissed informing the new president. that's a matter of the utmost urgency a new explosive device of unbelievable power must be discussed. on the opening day of the united nations conference the 12th day of his presidency truman read a 15-page memo drafted by simpson that briefed him on the development of the atomic bomb. stimson purposefully designed this memo to be alarmist rather than a focus on ending the war it contains phrases such as modern civilization might be
completely destroyed because of the existence of the bomb. so nuclear nuclear anxiety, excuse me was evident within the administration. the nuclear question in presidential succession were very much on truman's mind during the tumultuous events following the sudden accession to the presidency truman wrote in his memoirs that he already had in mind the idea of recommending to congress a change in the order of succession in case the vice president as well as the president were to die in office. in june 1946 the us proposed a plan to retain its nuclear. monopolis monopoly while the united nations implemented a system of international control with the soviets did not want to be prevented from developing their own atomic bomb at an impasse the us decided to set aside its plans for international cooperation and congress passed the us atomic energy act that created the us atomic energy commission to control research and development of nuclear energy. the app granted the cosmic authority to order the use of the bomb slowly to the president. the increase in presidential power dovetailed with the heightens entrust in the line of
succession in an age of nuclear missiles. the president might be forced to decide the fate of millions in a matter of mere minutes and even if total annihilation did not occur a nuclear attack could suddenly destabilize the american government structural and procedural stage guards were needed to guard against that possibility. therefore human worked more diligently towards succession and inability solutions that is predecessors to ensure that the line of succession was protected and the 1947 presidential succession. act was the result of these efforts. as described today all of truman's proposals with the exception of a special election were incorporated in the bill passed in 1947 among those voting in favor were representative john linden b johnson of texas and senator john w mccormick of massachusetts, both of whom would play key roles in the passage of the 25th amendment drafted by senator birch by with the help of dean emeritus, john ferric and others. in this case anxiety and amorphous concept that ebbs and flows, but has ever present contributed to a concrete law that allowed for better sense of presidential continuity.
even beyond the 25th amendment for the reformist warranted. the development of increasingly powerful weapons height intentions between the superpowers while political rhetoric has fed off of and contributed to nuclear anxiety. today russia has again brought the world to the brink of nuclear war russian approach that vladimir putin has ordered his country's nuclear forces to a higher state of readiness and has warned foreign powers that might hinder its advance through ukraine of consequences that you have never encountered in your history. the economists in an article entitled the risk that war in ukraine escalates past the nuclear threshold speculates, even if putin does not use strategic nuclear weapons. he may use small tactical ones of which russia is said to have thousands. in another recent article us makes contingency plans in case russia uses its most powerful weapons the new york times describes a team assembled by the white house comprised of national security officials that are sketching out scenarios of how the us and its allies should respond if putin unleashes nuclear rapids. the bulletin of atomic scientists who have now set the
doomsday clock to 100 seconds to midnight suggest that leaders around the world like putin must immediately commit themselves to reducing these existential risks, and that citizens much urge their leaders to do so because the doorstep of doom is no place to loiter. so thus that the precipice of time the end of times i'll turn the floor black back to you red. thank you. thank you dr. lebeau. ambassador caldwell house okay, i think i'm on can you hear me? all right. i didn't have my it guy here to help me today. let me talk a little bit about the practical world of the white house my contacts of presidential health and and the succession act in the white house. there's a laser light focused on protecting the president and there's that creates a strong.
bias, frankly again against dealing with health issues in a transparent and a processed oriented manner many. positions on the white house including the one i held white house council, but also the chief of staff the staff secretary would say that. yes, they have an obligation support and defend the constitution of the united states, but they also part of their job is to preserve the president's political capital his reputation and his power and that's can be manifested in and i think one of the clearest mistakes and i can say this is a reagan alumni, although it wasn't the white house at the time and that was in the context of john hinckley's shooting of attempted assassination of president reagan the one book i would recommend is rawhide down which is a pretty clear example of what i would call an all-star
group of white house staffers a number of whom are friends of mine who were who told a lot of us about how to run the white house, but they should have implemented the the 25th amendment and they did and and probably the most clear cut case in my lifetime and i i came to washington and 1973 to stay 18 months. i've been here ever since so it's that that is one of those cases conversely in the white house the media and the press corps are intentionally interested in every aspect of the president's health. and if you're in the white house staff, you're constantly, you know, the president didn't look good today. the the president is regular checkup. what can you tell me and i've i've been sensed personally by the combination of two of those and to occasions or those two phenomenon in 1987 before howard baker and i went into the reagan
white house. we were briefed by some transition team and it was a long briefing howard's house the night before and one of the briefers who had talked to the outgoing aid to had lost their river about to lose their jobs because they were done they had worked for then chief of staff. don regan had said one of the first things you're going to have to do is to to assess whether or not you should implement to 25th amendment. power makers immediate reaction was that's not the ronald reagan. i saw the past two days. that's not the ronald reagan. i negotiated with i i yes will consider it because serious people have raised it, but i don't think that is a priority and if and he looked around at the two of us that were there and if either of you say think otherwise, let me know. we went on a matter of business a year later jane mayor donald mcmanus wrote landslide.
they had access to that transition report and we had a three or four day firestone. of we had were hiding important information for the from the american people and and/or that we were spying on the president two decades later bill o'reilly. and killing reagan writes the same story. the same document and and again we i when we spent howard and spent more time. we spent days refuting that there was a coup or a cover-up or anything else than then the 10 minutes. we spent being briefed about potential 25th amendment issue. so it's a third the point i'm trying to make is the president's health is the third rail for white house staff. it is the third rail and that is and that probably frustrates a
considered organized considered thoughtful process in some respects clearly. it did clearly it did in the hinckley assassination attempt on the other hand a reb is shared with me some materials that i hadn't seen in years from the from the i guess the clinton library rim but of the precedence that had been assembled by reagan and then by george hw bush and then by clinton on how to exercise the 25th the white house staff knows how to do it. considered process it's delivered process the dot, you know, the white house physicians intimately involved and and people know how to do it if the question the harder part is making the decision ronald reagan in 1987, and july was about to have a surgery that i the physician wasn't clear whether he's going to anesthesia or not. it was is cancerous growth on
his face and the president reagan had no qualms about transferring power. we prepared the paperwork as it turned out. he did not have to go under anesthesia the but but it's the white house staff. i think in the president's supporters are very very bit. so the what you're finding is that transfers of power or rare. they are highly scripted and they and they're very brief and you we've all seen photos of the white house chief of staffs right beside the president's bed waiting for the doctor to say that he's conscious so the president will assign the papers for zooming power. i the one surgery i had i'm not sure that i was just as soon as i awake, and i i should have should have been exercising
serious power on succession. i on associate myself with john rogan and others comments about the the mysterious impact and i think that's the best way to say of having the speaker in the president pro tem in the line of succession. i think it whether it's in the context of transfers of power for incapacitate and capacity or or candor with american people. i believe it it is mischievous. it's discouraging. i worked with john mccain on his vice presidential selection process. i'll probably be my epitaph, you know, the guy who chose sarah palin. i didn't choose sarah palin, but that's what the press loves to do to write but for but some of you may know or recall we had very serious conversations that joe liberman about being the vice presidential nominee that was and he and i had a number of
discussions about how he as if he became the president or the acting president how he would be faithful to the mccain policy. you know, would he fire all the cabinet members that sort of thing, but they just goes to show you how awkward it is when you're sitting in the white house looking at the speaker if it's a different party looking at the president pro team and say what's going to happen if if we have have to go there so i think regardless of the constitutionality, although i i agree with those you think just probably not institutional to have the signal speaker in them and the president pro team and the line of succession. i do think that it's it's bad policy. it's it's mischievous. i kind of like the notion that maybe you drop them. down to the bottom of the tree because it goes to my last point and which is stability. it's fundamentally important to be to have stability and
leadership. i came back a year ago as ambassador australia when i arrived in australia in 2019, australia had had six prime ministers. in 12 years six train and it the is felt it felt to me like the whole country was a bit luke and the sockets it was the the people were were very concerned and a bit embarrassed and it and the and it was not a result of elections. it was interparty coups. caucusran coups, but it did not serve australia. well, i think in retrospect the leaders of australia were embarrassed and they and they adopted changes in party rules so that you can't have a coup the prime minister turns his back or her back and there's suddenly a new prime minister a new leader in parliament who becomes the prime minister, but i do think that stability is is
so fundamentally important and with that rebel yield back balance of my time. thank you investor called house. we have time for a couple quick questions. just you know, there's a q&a that was asked about whether or not there should be a first or second vice president dr. joel goldstein. who is the living authority on the vice president? he texted back and response. so i want to just verbally convey that he writes back that new york, senator kenneth keating proposed creating two vice presidents during the 1964 period one would have been an executive vice president the other legislative vice president among those opposed. the idea was richard nixon the general sense the time was that the vice presidency was advancing in a positive direction toward the executive branch and getting meaningful duties and that therefore creating a second vice president stunt that positive growth. in section two of the 25th amendment was thus adopted instead? so that's a answer to the question on the q&a.
a couple quick questions. this is one for dr. mcdermott. given that you're among your many areas of expertise includes international relations. i was curious dr. mcdermott. are there some models for dealing with succession or inability in other countries that might be useful for us either to adopt or to just steer away from there are other models depending on the kind of regime type whether it's you know as sort of democracy or more authoritarian or totalitarian system the challenges that many of them would not necessarily translate very well into our current. bipartisan system. so in many ways a lot of the challenges presented today and people will notice this throughout the discussion is that we have this sort of two-party system and you can imagine that if we had a system that wasn't too parties. that was nine parties like denmark that you have a lot more opportunity for coalition
forming along. different topics that can create majorities around different issues. and so, you know, one of the challenges of the american system is that it's really deadlocked by this kind of two-party system and that makes the adoption of other systems more difficult. you know and a lot of systems that are sort of authoritarian or totalitarian. the way that succession happens is by coots right? you have a military coup where the military will come in or other leaders will engage in violence and you'll end up with a civil war other kind of violent system of overthrow. monarchy's obviously have a hereditary element but as in britain a lot of them are honorary, they don't actually, you know wield the power of government the way that they did, you know, 200 years ago. i think that the systems that work for stability and in other democratic systems in scandinavian in western europe
this session first ladies impact and influence will explore the many ways in which first ladies? have shaped history as the closest advisor. to the president as advocates for both change and continuity. and as well as how they influenced america society. politics culture and diplomacy now i have a very great pleasure.