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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Presidential Roulette

1963 Presidential Inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson

Richard Albert
Boston College Law School


Date: Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010
Time: 12:00-1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

Abstract: Imagine terror strikes the nation. As the President approaches the dais to deliver the annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, terrorists unleash the horror of a weapon of mass destruction in the heart of Washington. When first responders arrive onto the scene, they comb through the rubble of bricks, mortar and bodies, hoping to identify the President and the Vice President. But neither has survived the attack. Who will lead the nation?

The untimely death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Second World War triggered a similar scramble for certainty amid a similarly disastrous crisis of insecurity. Congress ultimately passed a new law—the Presidential Succession Act of 1947--establishing a revised line of succession to the presidency.

But the succession sequence is dead wrong. In privileging politics and partisanship over leadership and competence, the current law of presidential succession undermines its own ambitions. That is precisely why the current line of succession is no safer than playing presidential roulette. We must therefore rethink the bases of presidential succession, and renew the order of precedence to elevate leadership and competence over politics and partisanship.


headshot of Albert

Richard Albert is a constitutional law professor at Boston College Law School. A law and political science graduate of Yale, Oxford and Harvard, Professor Albert conducts his scholarly research in English, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Italian and Spanish on the subjects of constitutional politics, the separation of powers, the function of courts in liberal democracy, and the role of religion in public life. Professor Albert is a Distinguished Academic Associate at the Centre for Law & Religion at Cardiff Law School and a Senior Research Fellow at the Canadian Council for Democracy. He is a regular contributor to Politico, the Huffington Post, the Kirwan Institute, and the Comparative Constitutions Project.

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In the News:

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"Why The President Wins If The Democrats Lose"  

by Richard Albert  9.29.10 
The Huffington Post Op-Ed 

In an Op-ed entitled: "Why The President Wins If The Democrats Lose" in The Huffington Post, Richard Albert predicts the a loss for the Democratic party will strengthen President Obama. Albert spoke at the Boisi Center on Nov. 10, 2010.