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Geek Trivia: Failure or success(ion)

What is the only post ever to have been permanently removed from the U.S. presidential line of succession -- a position that was formerly part of the presidential Cabinet but has since been demoted?

In January 2000, Bill Richardson was just a heartbeat away from becoming the president of the United States. No, the recently resigned Democratic presidential candidate didn't almost invent a time machine to transport himself into a Turtledove-esque alternate-history America.

Richardson, who was then the U.S. secretary of energy, was the so-called designated survivor for Bill Clinton's final State of the Union address. That means he was one localized disaster away from ascending to the post of leader of the free world.

The designated survivor is a member of the U.S. Cabinet who remains intentionally absent from functions that require the complete attendance of the remainder of the Cabinet, the president, the vice president, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and the speaker of the House of Representatives. This group represents the complete line of presidential succession as laid out in the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as applicable U.S. law.

Instituted during the Cold War, the designated survivor security measure ensures at least one member of the line of succession would survive an attack in the event that the remainder of the leadership perishes. Had such an attack occurred during the 2000 State of the Union, Bill Richardson would have become president then, rather than resigning his campaign for president just recently.

The government chooses designated survivors for every State of the Union address, for all joint sessions of the U.S. Congress, and for presidential inaugurations. Interestingly, the 25th Amendment makes no mention of the Cabinet in its stipulations for the line of succession, merely that the U.S. Congress may stipulate by law the line past the president, vice president, speaker, and Senate president.

The inclusion of the Cabinet is an artifact of the Presidential Succession Act of 1947. This legislation dictated that the members of the Cabinet would succeed to the presidency in the same order as the creation of the respective executive departments (with a few specific exceptions).

Since 1947, seven such Cabinet positions have been created. In that time, only one Cabinet position -- and thus only one potential presidential successor -- has been eliminated.

WHAT IS THE ONLY POST THAT HAS BEEN PERMANENTLY REMOVED FROM THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL LINE OF SUCCESSION?

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About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

10 comments
jscali61
jscali61

In the 5th paragraph, mention is made of the "Senate president" being part of the line of succession, instead of the president pro tempore of the Senate. The VP is Senate president, and he can't die twice.

catseverywhere
catseverywhere

Why was the "Post Office" eliminated, specifically in 1971, and turned into a 'quasi-governmental' corporate entity? (hints: zip codes... Nixon closes the international gold window... what's YOUR role in all this?)

read
read

This is where Canadian and American history blend into one (and why Canadians and Americans often both claim certain historic figures, places and events, with the figures often in fact being English or Scottish or French, etc). Apparently Benjamin Franklin's first post office was opened in Halifax (which is now part of Canada). Well, it wasn't Canada at the time, and it wasn't the US either. Halifax was part of the British colonies, most of which became the US, except the part that stayed with Canada (including Halifax) - hope that isn't too unclear. Both sides will claim this post office then and I guess in some ways they'd be right depending on how you argue the facts. However, my feeling is that his post office was actually opened in Canada (even if it didn't exist at the time). So, my quibble is (perhaps incorrect): Was Franklin really the first Postmaster General of the US, or was he the first Postmaster General of the British Colonies, most of which later became the US? See: http://www.ns1763.ca/hfxrm/postservns.html

SID S-1-1
SID S-1-1

While Franklin did operate his first post office in what is now Canada, I quote the following facts from the US Postal Service website: "Central postal organization came to the colonies only after 1692, when Thomas Neale received a 21-year grant from the British Crown, whose settlements dominated the Atlantic seaboard, for a North American postal system.2 Neale never visited America. Instead, he appointed Governor Andrew Hamilton of New Jersey as his deputy postmaster general. Neale?s franchise cost him only six shillings and eight pence a year but was no bargain. He died heavily in debt in 1699 after assigning his interests in America to Andrew Hamilton and another Englishman, Robert West." ..so apparently Neale was the first Postmaster General of the Colonies. ...also... "Benjamin Franklin served as Postmaster General until November 7, 1776. He was in office when the Declaration of Independence created the United States in July 1776, making Franklin the first Postmaster General of the United States."

read
read

And some people didn't like Kevin Costner's movie "The Postman" (OK, practically nobody liked it). It is an interesting idea - that postal service is considered so vital that it is organized before pretty much everything else but doesn't ever really get any respect (until the postal employees start shooting - although that tradition seems to be mostly followed only at the USPS and in Hollywood movies). A similar history of postal delivery began in Canada before there were really any other organizations, with paid mail being delivered beginning in the late 1700's. I suspect this would be true for practically all countries.

Justin James
Justin James

There used to be a "Secretary of War" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_War) and a "Secretary of the Navy" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_the_Navy). In 1947, those two positions were placed under the newly created "Secretary of Defence" position. However, the Presidential Succession Act which puts the cabinent in line also was put into place in 1947 (July 18th). However, the Secretary of Defense position was established on September 17th, 1947, giving about 2 months in which the Secretary of War and Secretary of Navy were in the newly successionable Cabinet. J.Ja

deepsand
deepsand

But, as the Dept. of War was [i]renamed[/i] the Dept. of Defense, would it not be correct to hold that the incorporation of the Sec. of the Navy into the Dept. of Defense yielded but a [i]single[/i] position eliminated?

Justin James
Justin James

My understanding is that the Dept. of War was not merely renamed to be the Dept. of Defense. It was renamed to be the Dept. of the Army, and moved under the Dept. of Defense, to reside at the same level as the Dept. of the Navy, and the newly created Dept. of the Air Force. Since the Dept. of War & Dept. of Navy originally were cabinet level positions and at the same level (just with different parts of the battlefield concerned), that makes a lot more sense than renaming the Dept. of War, putting taking much of its functionality into a new created Dept. of the Army, and putting the new Dept. of the Army under it. :) J.Ja

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

It gives me warm fuzzies knowing that if we're obliterated out of existence, by nukes, bios or chemicals, etc. the government has at least one trick up its sleeves to represent in the aftermath...err...afterglow...

macbill
macbill

You ask "What do you think?" Well, this you thinks that moving the quibble to somewhere else is simply a ploy to put more ads on my desktop. No sir, I will not be clicking on that link. As a Geek add-on, it was interesting; as a separate page, it's not worth the effort.