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tv   The Presidency Presidential Succession Act of 1947  CSPAN  November 11, 2022 8:53am-10:05am EST

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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
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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
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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
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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 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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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 cabinet officer and as president, have proven almost indispensable to me, unquote. the closest to any lawmaker has apparently come to indicating that he or she might not serve for any extended period of time as acting president what's senator carl -- who served as ppt in the 1950s
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through the 1960s. the senator remarked that having elevated the oval office, he would've taken the following steps. quote, i would call congress together, have the house elect a new speaker, then i would resign and let him become the active president, unquote. interestingly, -- act of self denial not fall as declining the job altogether and allowing to pass to the secretary of state. instead, he had indicated that he would ensure that the active president would come from the legislative branch. i will defer to the next panelist, doctor fins, who will discuss the experience of speaker albert, whose experience is also relevant in this context. finally, i would know that speaker dennis -- did not want to become acting president, but unlike senator hagan, -- he would've accepted responsibility. quote, i really did not want to be president. permanent or temporary. and with my wife, jean, who was not thrilled with my president job, she wouldn't be happy with this. the opt-out division in the 1947 statute might have seemed attractive, but i understood
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that it wasn't really an option because if you had a constitutional crisis and you are the speaker, you couldn't pass it up. you had to accept it, unquote. the words and actions wade, martin, hagan, and -- each indicate that lawmakers, themselves, have given some serious thought to becoming active president. what i hope this brief presentation has outlined is that the prospect of a speaker or ppt becoming active president and potentially flipping partisan control of the white house is a very real one. this is reflected by the fact that lawmakers, themselves, have given some thought that's what they would do when they become acting president. the question for the public to consider is, does having lawmakers in the white house succession manifest most sensible approach for addressing executives section? now, let me turn matters over to doctor fins. >> thank you so much, rev, and a real big thanks to dean -- and john rogen for having me on
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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 physician, we don't go anywhere without our slides. so, i will share some slides. because member verbal abilities are not as keen as my lawyer friends, my legal colleagues. so, i'm going to talk about the carl albert experience and the bipartisanship, and the dual vacancies that happened during the watergate era. and i think it's relevant in a lot of interesting primary sources i will share, that i think speaks 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 disability conferences that were hosted by
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president ford and carter, and convened by the white house physician in jim tool, or organize it. it was december of 1996, and i was invited, along with george yiannis, who was a health lawyer at boston university, because i had done some writing and there was a piece there on the side on advance directives and advance care planning. i think one thing to remember when you think about presidential disability and succession is that presidents are also husbands, and potentially lives, of spouses and parents, grandparents, and family dynamics are going to play into decisions about incapacity. and so, i have been asked to be there, to talk about the family role and some of these decisions. and to weigh in on some medical issues. there were a number of white house physicians who were in attendance, including bergman lee, general hutton and others. so, that was a fascinating
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experience when i was a young scholar at the time and i felt a little bit out of place. for me, the headline was this curious phrase that senator bayh, of course, wrote the 25th bayh amendment. in the middle 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 even killer character, you know, just authentic midwestern patriotic quality. he was telling us this story about the dual vacancy during a watergate era. of course, agnew had resigned, nixon could be removed, could resigned, before the vice president was nominated. then carl albert, you know, under the succession act, would assume office. then he said that there was a fear of the presidency going to, his, phrase eight party opposite.
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and he was concerned about that. that that would look as if it had been a coup d'état. and so, he told us this anecdote, which stayed with me for years, and years, and years, 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 would then replace a republican, and carl albert and -- were concerned about any appearance of a political gain with nixon's removal, because he had committed crimes or because of constitutional violation alike. it was not a political impeachment, it was because of the legal issues. again, as it's has been said earlier, you know, there could've been a -- for next centers on because it would've gone to the party opposite. so, there was just gentleman's agreement. and over the years, it's been a sort of, like, a sort of side hobby of mine to look for
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evidence of this. and when i was giving a talk out in grand rapids, i got into a private tour of the ford museum, and i found some interesting documents there. you know, one is a letter from jerry ford, from october of 1973, recommending three people to be the new vice president. he recommended john connally, melvin layered, who is the defense secretary, nelson rockefeller, who he ultimately chose as 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 are familiar with reasons and each instance. and then, of course, the nixon letter resigning in 1974. interestingly noted here, 11:35 am, initial by henry kissinger, hk. then, of course, here's the index card that came to him, when he actually took the oath of the office.
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and i want to draw your attention to these three pictures on this side by here, of this frame. you see agnew and karl albert, ford and albert, and rockefeller and karl albert. the continuity here is in the speaker. he's the only person who has not shifted in this musical chair, during this cast of characters. and so, i would have been very interested and they didn't have anything when i was at the ford museum about this. it kind of stayed with me. then during the middle part of the trump administration, i was wondering about this story over and over again, about this sort of act of bipartisanship, this patriotism that carl albert would actually resign the speakership, so a member of the party opposite could become president, and have continuity with nixon's party. and i really got interested in this. so, i really wanted to know, was bayh's anecdote true? i had been very interested in
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garrett graff's comments about this because you wrote a wonderful book on watergate. but why has this not been a more prominent feature of the watergate story? and could i find evidence of it? more sort of aspirationally, could this inspire the kind of bipartisanship that greg jacob was talking about, that we are sort of lacking right now? of course, it would have implications for future vacancy. so, i contacted the birch bayh archives at the university of indiana and tried to reach senator bayh, who unfortunately at that stage of his life, was not in a petition position to remember that part of his life, and had been suffering from some illnesses. but they did, very nicely, recommend that i speak to jay berman, who i think is on the panel, on the zoom today. i think he was senator bayh's chief of staff. he very graciously had lunch with me at the century club in new york city. we talked about this freight, party opposite.
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you know, he said it sounds like senator bayh and then i found some more information that albert did not want to take a partisan advantage to become president, and he did not know about this plan to resign. but jay told me that he recalled a possible ted sorenson memo, advising carl albert about this, that, and the other. and he said, no, the carl albert archives. so, i looked in the carl albert archives and i found a 19-page memo that ted sorenson who, of course, was president kennedy's alter ego and before we had chief of staff in the white house, he was essentially his chief of staff. and there was this memo, joe genk housekeep, who was albert 's legislative aide, who i also spoke to, who organized his papers, did not recall seeing this document. but there it was in the
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archives, and it's a remarkable archives. you know, history, you know, rhymes and repeats itself. it's very interesting that secretary harry johnson's law firm, paul weiss, was the same law firm that ted sorenson was at, and it's interesting, if you look at this letter to carl albert, dated november 8th, 1973, after the midnight massacre, right? things were really heating up with watergate. if you read it, it says, enclosed is the first draft and i would be happy to talk with you at your convenience. 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 had. we see carl albert planning prospectively for this, and the document is really extraordinary. we see in this document, on the first page, the introduction talks about an unexpected vacancy in that office of the
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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 ted sorenson says to him, should a new president be confirmed before a vacancy occurs, or should the president serve out his term, that 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 a proper motivation on your part for the presidents ouster. two points. one, the political nature of this kind of preparation, and looking that he was doing it for political gain, which was totally counter to what he intended. and second, the beautiful writing of ted sorenson. if you want to read a wonderfully written book that you can teach riding with, read ted sorenson's book, counselor. it's an extraordinary,
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extraordinary piece of writing. and that one sentence is just, you know, ask not what you can do for carl albert. as 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 throwing all kinds of things about selecting your cabinet, about who you keep on, and how much you get paid, and where you live, all these, you know, things. i was saying, i guess there's nothing here. then on page 17, i came to this point, other decisions to be made in the first week. i -- because it was so exciting and he says, you should have a vice president soon. good point. if, as part as your nonpartisan approach, you want jerry ford, and that is still appropriate, you could include that in your statement upon taking the oath of office. if not, you can seek
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suggestions and discuss possibilities in a series of meetings outlined above. but here's the point, and it's remarkable, because sorenson and karl albert encapsulate in their disagreement the very issues that we have been talking about today. he says, i questioned whether it is 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. 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 nonpartisan nature of your administration, the oath taking statement, which speaks in terms of your remaining only until january 1977. so, he was also going to intend to limit his term as this, you
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know, sort of unexpected president. so, some summary comments here. first of all, there are lessons and there are limits to the watergate analogy. first, albert and sorenson were good faith actors. we can't necessarily assume that in the hyper partisan world we live in today. carl albert's way of being a patriot was to avoid partisanship. sorenson's way of being a patriot was to maintain government stability, by adherence to the succession 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 seeding the presidency in a clinton or trump era? i can't. next point is the irony that even though carl albert was a speaker and was a representative of the legislative branch, he was
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actually favoring the continuity of the party and the executive branch. and ted sorenson, as a creature of the executive branch, having to work with president kennedy and the kennedy white house, was actually favoring the legislative succession under the succession act. so, you can chew on that. the next point is that dual vacancies are going to be much more likely. for biological reasons or -- threats, and here you see up in the corner is a covid spike protein on the virus, and while we were in a meeting, news just came out from the washington post that merrick garland and secretary removed oh have both tested positive for covid, and members of the white house staff has tested positive for covid, having been all with the -- on saturday night earlier in the week. so, this is not a hypothetical. that the president and vice president could've been
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exposed. i'm not saying they were, but they could've been in that ecosystem and been exposed. this is not a hypothetical. the next point is, the lying threats. i would have -- served on the national academies -- that look at the havana syndrome. and as we know, there was a report that there might have been that same threat at the executive office, the e o b, and the white house campus. the next point i'm grateful to wrap for this is that the pace of transitions, you have a slow burn. rubs phrase, with the political scandal, the sorenson letter was november, that nixon resignation was august. compared to the rapid explosion of problems with a biological or maligned -- you are not going to have time for todd sorenson to write an elegant 19-page memo. the odds of a dual vacancy are quite high, to a party opposite. and i think everybody was
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right. you are going to have partisan litigation about the eligibility of a speaker as a non officer, member of the house, which is going to lead to a tremendous amount of instability during a crisis. so, my final point, okay? my and albert's instinctive worry of the presidency moving to the party opposite is really worth heating. aristotle would characterize their concerns as from nieces. virtuous, practical wisdom. losing both the president and vice president in a dual vacancy is a national trauma. switching parties would seem to confound that, and i think it's something to be avoided. so, 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 prospect of lee, and i think we need to avoid causing political instability with risk of party opposite scenarios, by keeping
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succession in the legislative, in the executive branch, so that we don't have a party opposite scenario. so, i will stop there. thank you. >> thank you, doctor fins. doctor mcdermott? thank you very much and doctor fins, you are a tough act to follow. i wanted to also start by thanking dean fabric and john rogen, and rev for inviting me to this panel, and for organizing it, 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
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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 income passage aided 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. 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 like he or others, had also become infected. and for me, the issue is not just illness, in terms of whether or not these people would've died, but other forms
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of incapacitation. so, what happens if somebody is not dead, but they are 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 to take them out of power. i think the recent example with trump having covid is one example, but certainly not the only one, where someone like mike pence would not want to look like he was trying to coerce or co-opt power away from trump, by saying, you know, he needs to step down from power. obviously, trump was not 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 treatment, to really discharge the duties of my office sufficiently. and so, i'm going to pass it over to pence temporarily, as other presidents have done. most notably, when they are
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having colonoscopy's and they are under anesthesia for a period of time, they pass it over to the vice president. he was not willing to do it, but then you are in a 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. there are iconic examples of this in the past. the most commonly referred to had to do with woodrow wilson, after he had a major stroke in office, in 1924. and he had members of his cabinet question his capacity, and, in fact, he was incapacitated. he was, in fact, completely paralyzed on half of his body.
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and marshall decided to challenge whether or not he was capable of discharging the duties of his office, in that along with wilson's wife, edith, and his secretary, joseph tumulty, and his doctor, robert grayson, they all got together and decided to pull the will over the cabinets eyes, and they brought marshall and other members of the cabinet into the sikh room, where the paralyzed side of his body was on away from the entrance to the door, they close the drapes so that no one can 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, he was not. they did not, they were not able to pursue. this was, of course, before the 25th amendment. they were not able to pursue moving him out of office. 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.
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but, of course, there are other examples of presidents who are incapacitated, but not dead. you know, we can think of presidents who were extremely ill. john kennedy, extremely ill with edison's disease. roosevelt, extremely ill with in stage cardiovascular disease, where he was fine for four or five hours a day, but the other hours, really not even being able to function completely. so, here the issue is not really just one of people being killed, but also issues of people in -- short of death. 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 raise this as an issue. what would've happened if during the insurrection, those who breached the capitol had actually had a more organized opposition and had machine guns,
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and had managed to actually kill a majority of congress? how would we have thought about what that would've happened? and the issue raised also by norm or unseen about -- 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, but as -- mentioned, we can imagine other forms of nuclear attack not just one coming from russia, but north korea, china, if we were to engage in a more extensive war over taiwan, and so on. so, these are cases where mass events, and i had not thought about the -- that doctor fins just raise, 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 was not necessarily a designated survivor, as was mentioned at the beginning of the panel
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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 that, and what happens with these mass casualty events? you have this third section that requires the president to say he is impaired, but most presidents are all unwilling to do it, except for very short periods of time, where he doesn't actually compared. oh, i'm going anesthesia, it's not that i'm actually really not capable of discharging the duties of my office. then you have the fourth section, which requires the others remove him. but those others may also be severely impaired, themselves, whether it's with biological diseases like covid, a chemical attack, a nuclear attack, or killed in a mass event. i think professor or seen also
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mentioned the shooting of the republicans -- was severely injured. and those who remain maybe unwilling to take on the political challenge of trying to remove somebody as incapacitated, who's unwilling to say that they're incapacitated. so, you are in a 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? 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 recent events regarding 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 the
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superspreader of ants that they had, for example, around that amy coney barrett nomination, that many, many members of congress could've been impaired at the same time and the cabinet, in ways that would've left us in a true constitutional limbo. so, i will stop there and thank you very much, i look forward to the next presentations. oh, i think that you are muted. >> thank, you doctor mcdermott. mr. graff? >> good afternoon, everyone. it's a pleasure to be here among such an -- group of scholars and historians. many of whom's research i have drawn from and histories that i have read, as i've been doing my own research on continuity of government at watergate, 9/11, and the jfk, lbj transition on november 22nd, 1963. i'm here today to talk a little bit more broadly from a historians perspective, about the idea of continuity, of
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government, a little more broadly than we have been discussing in the presidential succession act, the realm. to talk about it a little bit more in how it would've 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 believe 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 advances of nuclear technology, that really drove the collapse of space and time, that
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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 did not have that close a tab on our president, that for long periods of time, president would be away from washington, and communication would be very slow. as late as september of 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
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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 were the president incommunicado or the presidents whereabouts unknown be history. they 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 ensured 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
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one, the -- hawking armored limousine's and the expensive motorcades is to think of them as communications tools necessary to remain in contact with the pentagon, and to launch nuclear weapons for 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 from both houses of congress and through every cabinet agency. the presidency literally had an 18, the team, and even a c team in the cold war. -- relocation facilities around
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the capitol, some of them nearly 100 different bunkers, airborne command posts, available within an hour of washington. the government would activate 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 u.s. attorney for the district of minnesota, quickly and up being among the most important figures in american politics. what's began in the 1950s as an all encompassing nationwide push for civil defense to ready every household, village, and city for soviet attack, school children of a certain age will,
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of course, remember, the turtle and the duck and cover jewels of the 1950s and 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 looks like something very different. members of the presidential line of succession had a telephone number at the pentagon they were supposed to call in an emergency. and there was no comprehensive or organized way to tell who
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had survived an attack and who had not. the system would've left the 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 mchenry simple together, that the mantle willed presidential authority in dire emergencies might be selected by a single field rate 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 successors legitimacy. their plan called for special coated communications that could prove its successors
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identity and establish the highest ranking officials still alive within the u.s. government. it's a system that still exists today, still is 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 had raised a couple times over the course of today about what and how you prepare a so-called lesser or minor cabinet official to step into the presidency. and so, in the reagan years, the answer this with a unique, highly secret program known as the presidential successor support system. the p s three, which if i 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 wasn't an aqueous sounding program, one, by the national program office, which
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was run by vice president george h. w. bush, 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, jean kirkpatrick, former cabinet secretary, james schlesinger, and even folks like donald trump's failed and dick 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 dick cheney, already selected and in position as their chief of staff designate. the full records of the ps3 program will be declassified in the years ahead, and we have no idea where there is a similar program that exists today.
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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 bonkers, many of which 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, mister graff. >> doctor lubot?
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>> thank, you rev and thank you to -- and john rogin for admitting me back, and also i'm thrilled to follow garrett graff, who was kind of left to let me read one of his earlier manuscripts. so, i'm here today to talk about the effect of nuclear anxiety on the push for presidential successful -- in the form of the 1947 presidential succession act. so, from the nation's founding through the 1947 presidential succession act, questions of presidential succession have -- tapped into deep-seated anxieties about the -- committee and the democratic government. specifically whether it could withstand the threats posed by disruptive, unplanned changes
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in the nation's highest office. following the united states use use of atomic bombs against japan at the end of world war ii, those anxieties took on new gravity. really by existing, nuclear weapons have already set off train reactions on american society and in every one of these institutions -- the bulletin of atomic scientists recognize that nuclear anxiety had become stable on american popular and political culture overnight. but also that it was difficult to modify. in response, they signed the doomsday clock in 1945 as a gauge of how close mankind is to destroying itself, with mandate being the apocalypse. with the development of the atomic bomb came a concomitant increase in presidential power and a strong desire for stability at the top echelon of the united states government, at all times. the president had the -- power to destroy an entire nations and cut out millions of lives in an instant. and so, all other powers were pale in comparison. in 1945, -- cultural representations of hiroshima and nagasaki, such as
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the new atomic cocktail made -- appeared to celebrate americas victory in the -- of u.s. power demonstrated that the -- once detonated was never far from americans thoughts. any lightheartedness on the topics -- as one sociologist wrote at the time, to an intrinsic paralyzing anxiety. -- defiant here as the fear of nuclear or other consequences. the first images of the destruction caused by the bomb were -- photographs in life magazine on august 20th, 1945. the distance before voting was implanted in the nation's psyche my john -- gruesome account of the human suffering published in the august 31st, 1946, issue of the new yorker. -- articles were developed with the best selling book, you russia, and depicted -- horrible to imagine such as [inaudible] permanently implied into women 's bodies and the burn scan of
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children hanging in the basements. the destructive possibilities of this new weapon were immediately portrayed on film, for a popular audience. that year, for example, the truman white house [inaudible] depicting the bombing of japan. the title, the beginning of the end, was provided by the president, himself, in an early interview. make your film gentlemen and put this message into your picture, call it the men and women of the world, that they are the beginning of the end, truman said. it was meant to suggest that the world was at a tipping point, because of the harnessing of atomic energy. while in the senate truman had formed a special committee to investigate the national defense program and started as its chair for 1941 through 1945. tasked with investigating all war plans, truman had set inspectors to find out what the extraordinary installations in tennessee and washington were being used for. unbeknownst to all but those at the most top secret plans, these were two of the three manhattan project locations for the atomic bomb was being developed. the secretary of the war -- asked truman not to look into
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these installations, explaining that it was the greatest project in the history of the world, that it was the most top secret, and that many of the people engaged in the work did not even know their own purpose. truman, believing -- 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, then a few short months later, on april 12th, 1945, the final sudden presidential succession before the nuclear age took place, when franklin roosevelt's -- shocked the nation and abruptly transformed harry truman from a relatively unknown and brand-new vice president to a wartime prospect. truman was on capitol hill when house speaker, sam right near, told him that the presidents press secretary, steve early, had telephoned that the vice president was wanted in the white house. truman ran through the capitol basement back to his office to get his hat, then with a driver, fought his way through rush hour traffic to the white house without any secret service protection, as garrett just pointed out.
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when he arrived in the -- white house, first lady, eleanor roosevelt, informed him that the president was dead. within two hours and 24 minutes, of fdr's death, truman was sworn in and shortly thereafter, -- informed of the bomb. the nations leader gathered in the cabinet of the white house, including secretary of the state, edward -- the next in line of succession, speaker of the house, sam rayburn, and house majority leader, john mccormack. in a show of support to keep the gears grinding on the wheels of democracy. after the swearing in ceremony, truman asked the cabinet to remain and -- stay behind when they were dismissed, informing the new president that a matter of the utmost urgency, in 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 his 15 page memo drive it by stimson -- the development of the atomic bomb.
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simpson purposefully designed this memo to be alarmist, rather than a focus on ending the war and continuing phrases such as modern civilization might be completely destroyed because of the existence of the bomb. so, nuclear anxiety, excuse me, was evident within the administration. the nuclear question of presidential succession were very much on truman's mind during the tumultuous events following the sudden -- to the presidency. truman wrote in his memoirs that he already had -- a change in the order of succession in case the vice president, as well as the president, for today in office. in june, 1946, the u.s. proposal planned to retain its nuclear 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 u.s. decided to set aside his plan for international cooperation and congress passed the u.s. atomic energy act that created the u.s. atomic energy commission, to control research and development of nuclear energy. the act granted the cosmic authority --
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solely to the president. the increase in presidential power dovetailed at the -- in the line of succession, when the age of nuclear missiles, the president might be forced to decide the fate of millions in a matter of minutes. even if total annihilation did not occur, a nuclear attack could suddenly civilized the american government, structural and procedural state guards when needed to guard against the possibility. therefore, truman worked more diligently towards succession and innovative solution that his predecessors, to assure that the line of succession was protected. the 1947 presidential succession act was the result of these efforts. as described today, all of trump's proposals, with the exception of a special election, were incorporated in the bill passed in 1947. among those voting in favor or representative lyndon 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 -- with the help of dina meredith, john merrick, and others. in this case, anxiety -- ebbs and flows but is ever-present contributed to a concrete law that allowed for a better sense of presidential
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continuity. even beyond the 25th amendment, further reform was warranted. the development of a creasing powerful weapons hightened tensions between the superpowers, while political rhetoric has sped off of and contributed to nuclear anxiety. today, russia has again brought the world at the brink of nuclear war. russian president, 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 risks that were in ukraine escalates pass a nuclear threshold, speculates that 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, u. s. -- contingency plans in case russia uses its most powerful weapons. the new york times describes the team assembled by the white house comprised of national security officials there are sketching out scenarios of how the u.s. and its allies should respond if putin unleashes nuclear weapons. the bulletin of atomic
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scientists, who have now set the doomsday clock to 100 seconds to midnight, suggests that leaders around the world, like putin, must immediately commit themselves to reducing these existential risks and that citizens must urge their leaders to do so, because the doorstep of doom is no place to loiter. so, that's it. that's at the end of times, i will turn the floor back to you, rev. thank you. >> thank, you doctor lubot. ambassador culvahouse? >> okay, can you hear me? all right, i didn't have my i. t. guy here to help meet here today. [laughs] let me talk a little bit about the practical role of the white house in the context of presidential health and the succession act. in the white house, there's a laser-like focus on protecting the president. that creates a strong bias, frankly, against dealing with health issues in a transparent and process oriented manner.
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many positions in the white house, including the one i held, white house counsel, but also the chief of staff, the staff secretary, would say that, yes, they have an obligation to support and defend the constitution of the united states. but also, part of their job is to reserve the presidents political capital, his reputation, and his power. and that can be manifested in, i think, one of the clearest mistakes i can say this as a reagan alumni, although i wasn't a white house at the time, and that was in the context of john hinckley's shooting, 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
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white house staffers, a number of whom are friends of mine, who talk a lot of us about how to run the white house. but they should've implemented the 25th amendment, and they did not. and probably the most clear cut case in my lifetime, i came to washington in 1973 to say 18 months, and i've been here ever since. so, that's one of those cases. conversely, in the white house, the media and the press corps are intentionally interested in every aspect of the presidents health. and if you are in the white house staff, you are constantly, the president does not look good today. the president had his regular checkup, what can you tell me? and i've been cinched, personally, by the combination
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of two of those into occasions, or those two phenomena. 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 at howard's house the night before. and one of the briefers, who had spoken to the outgoing aides who had lost, or were about to lose their jobs, because they had worked for the then chief of staff, don regan, had said one of the first things you are going to have to do is to assess whether or not you should implement the 25th amendment. howard baker's immediate reaction was, that is not the ronald reagan i saw the past two days. that's not the ronald reagan i negotiated with. yes, we will consider it, because serious people have raised it, but i don't think that is a priority, and he looked around at the two of us that were there, and if either of you think otherwise, let me
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know. we went on about our business. a year later, jane mayer, -- wrote landslide. they had access to that transition report, and we had a three or four-day firestorm. we were hiding important information from the american people and or that we were spying on the president. two decades later, bill o'reilly, and -- writes the same story, it's the same document, and again, we spent, howard and i, we spent more time, we spent days, refuting that there was a coup or a cover-up, or anything else, then the ten minutes we spent being briefed about a potential 25th amendment issue. so, 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 probably frustrates a considered, organized,
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considered, thoughtful process, in some respects. clearly it did, clearly it did in the hinckley assassination attempt. on the other hand, a -- shared with me some materials that i have not seen in years from i guess the clinton library, rev. of the presidents that have been assembled by reagan, done by george h. w. bush, and by clinton, on how to exercise the 25th amendment. the white house staff knows how to do it. it's a concerted process, it's a deliberate process, the white house -- imminently involved and people know how to do it. the harder part is making the decision. ronald reagan, in 1987, july, was about to have a surgery,
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the physician wasn't clear whether he was going to have anesthesia or not. it was one of these kangaroo spurts on his face. and president reagan had no qualms about transferring power. he prepared the paperwork, as it turned out, he did not have to go under anesthesia. but it's the white house staff, i think, and the president's supporters were very, very -- so what you are finding ways that the transfers of power were rare, they are highly scripted, and they are very brief. we've all seen photos of the white house chief of staff right beside the presidents bed, waiting for the doctor to say that he is conscious, so the president will sign the papers, presuming power. the one -- i'm not sure that i was just as soon as i awaken, i should've been exercising serious power. i want to associate myself with john roland and others comments
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about the mischievous impact, and i think that's the best way to say it, of having the speaker and the president -- in the line of succession. i think whether it's in the context of transfers of power for incapacitation or candor with american people, i believe it is mischievous, it's discouraging. i worked with john mccain on his vice presidential selection process. it will probably be my epitaph, you know, the guy who chose sarah palin. i did not to sarah palin. but that's with the press loves to do, they love to write. but some of you may know or recall, we had very serious conversations with joe lieberman about being the vice presidential nominee. he and i had a number of discussions about how he, if he became the president, or the
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acting president, how he would be faithful to the mccain policy. you know, would he fired all the cabinet members? that sort of thing. that goes to show you how awkward it is when you are sitting in the white house looking at the speaker, if it's a different party, looking at the president -- and say, what's going to 2019, australia had had six -- 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, which is stability. it's fundamentally important to have stability and leadership. i came back as a year ago as ambassador to australia.
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when i arrived in australia in 2019, australia had had six prime ministers in 12 years. -- it felt to me like the whole country was a bit loose in the sockets. the people were very concerned and a bit embarrassed. it was not the result of elections, it was interparty coups. caucus room whose. but it did not serve australia inister 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
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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.
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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 >> there are other models depending on the kind of regime type, whether it's, you know, sort of democracy or more authoritarian, totalitarian systems. 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 two party system. you can imagine that if we had a system that was not to parties, that was nine parties, like denmark, that you have a lot more opportunity for
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coalition forming along different topics that can create majorities around different issues. and so, 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, a lot of systems that are sort of authoritarian or totalitarian, the way that succession happens despite coups, right? you have a military coup where the military will come in or other leaders will engage in violence, and you will end up with a civil war, other kind of violent system of overthrow. monarchies, 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 that they did, you know, 200 years ago. i think the systems that work for stability in other democratic systems in
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scandinavia and in western europe, again, would be very difficult to translate into the bipartisan system that kind of paralyzes the current american system of government.
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