Monday, September 30, 2019

President Pelosi? It could happen.

Robert Atkins 
Adam P. Frankel, 
The Washington Post 
Published 6:56 am PDT, 
Monday, September 30, 2019

" And They Call Trump An Old Man"
 Pelosi DOB March 26, 1940
Ron Ernie

Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addresses reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, as Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire appears before the House ... more

What happens when a Democratic speaker of the House - third in line to the presidency, according to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 - is suddenly thrust into the Oval Office, succeeding a Republican president and vice president who resign, embroiled in scandal?

Such a scenario is attracting attention - #PresidentPelosi was trending on social media after last week's announcement of an impeachment inquiry - even though it may seem far-fetched that President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence would be forced from office over abuse of power related to the administration's dealings with Ukraine or other misdeeds.

This was a more urgent question in the fall of 1973. On Oct. 10, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned, pleading nolo contendere to charges of tax evasion. Ten days later, President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in what is widely known as the Saturday Night Massacre. As hearings began in the Senate and the House on the nomination of Agnew's successor, Gerald Ford, questions swirled about the possibility that Democratic House Speaker Carl Albert, D-Okla., might assume the presidency.

So real was the possibility that Ted Sorensen, a speechwriter and close adviser to President John F. Kennedy, wrote a secret 19-page memorandum to Albert, offering recommendations for what to do and what to say in the event that Nixon resigned before Ford could be confirmed and Albert suddenly found himself sitting in the Oval Office. Although long forgotten, the memo is timely in this chaotic political moment, when a Pelosi presidency, however improbable, is not impossible. It reminds us that our faith in representative self-governance may yet be salvaged.

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