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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Presidential Roulette: Further Reading

Readings from Richard Albert

Op-ed, "Presidential Roulette." The Huffington Post, January 27, 2010.

The article, published by Albert in the Huffington Post, that inspired this discussion. He explores presidential succession, and suggests a model to modify it.

Op-Ed "Why The President Wins If The Democrats Lose." The Huffington Post, September 29, 2010.

An op-ed by Albert explaining that, while it may seem beneficial for a President's party to be in control of the House, it would actually be to Obama's benefit for the Democrats to lose in the midterm elections. With a Republican controlled house, the President can escape some ridicule for falling short of campaign promises by placing blame on an uncooperative House. If the Democrats retain control, however, expectations of success in implementing these promises would be generally higher.

"America's Forgotten Founders." The Huffington Post, August 24, 2010.

An article in which Albert suggests that America has undergone two foundings: the first, with those of the Framers of the Constitution, and the second, following the Civil War. To understand the modern, living Constitution, Albert suggests we look not only to the intentions of the Framers, but also to those who wrote and inspired the 14th amendment.

"The Evolving Vice Presidency." Richard Albert, Temple Law Review, 2005.

Albert traces the foundations of the vice presidency and its evolution and expansion of the power of the office over time.  He argues that the vice presidential position used to be one of negligible influence, and as such, the lack of popular legitimacy in the office was acceptable. But due to the rise in the power and prestige of the office in the modern era, it is no longer legitimate that it be filled solely by the whim of the president and his party. In conclusion, Albert calls for, and describes, a democratization of the vice presidential appointment.

Topical Materials from Other Authors

"Presidential and Vice Presidential Succession: Overview and Current Legislation" a CRS Report for Congress, by Thomas H. Neale of the
Government and Finance Division (updated September 27, 2004).

A report for Congress detailing the procedures of presidential and vice presidential succession.  Since 1789, vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency on nine occasions, eight due to the death of an incumbent, and once due to resignation.  When Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded Kennedy as president, it was noted at the time that Johnson's potential immediate successor was 71 years old, and Senate President Pro Tempore Carl T. Hayden was 86 and visibly frail.  In light of the events of 9/11, concerns about continuity in the presidency and succession take on a new significance.

"Preserving Our Institutions: The Continuity Of the Presidency." The Second Report Of the Continuity of Government Commission, American Enterprise Institute, June 2009.

A report asking "Is our current system adequate to protect the Presidency against catastrophic attacks?" and tracing the evolution of the succession system, looking at some of the major problems as it stands.  It provides a hypothetical "confusion" scenario to illustrate the chaos that could ensue with a major attack.  Providing succinct detailing of many of the major problems in our system, it concludes with some recommendations as to how we could make the system more secure.

"Is the Presidential Succession Law Constitutional?" An essay by Akhil Reed Amar and Vikram David Amar for the Stanford Law Review, November 1995.

An essay for the Stanford Law Review attacking the constitutionality of the current presidential succession statute.  From the basis of the Framers of the Constitution, the Constitution itself, and an appeal to practical and ethical concerns, the authors conclude that presidential succession, as it stands today, is in fact unconstitutional. They conclude with some recommendations on how to improve the situation.

25th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

A link to the text of the 25th amendment, which provides procedure for "presidential vacancy, disability and inability."  In the history of presidential succession and the statutes and procedures providing for it, the 25th amendment is the most recent, having been passed in 1967 in the wake of the Kennedy assassination.