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July 17, 2008

L'Audace! L'Outrage!

Suppose the worst happens, and the next terrorist attack hits Washington hard, taking out the president and the vice president. What happens next?

New Yorker writer Jane Mayer's new book, The Dark Side, opens with a shocker. Apparently sometime in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan issued a "secret executive order" that in the event of the death of the president and the vice president "established a means of re-creating the executive branch." Reagan's order violated the express terms of the Constitution and governing statutes.

Does a similar order exist today? We aren't told. But we do know that Dick Cheney filled an innocent lawyer full of buckshot to prevent him from alerting Eric Lichtblau to the existence of top secret documents proving him complicit in a nefarious plot to put Alexander Haig in the Oval Office.

And we do know that Prescott Bush, grandpappy to George W. Bush, sipped blood from the purloined skulls of native American infants as the price of admission to the elite brotherhood of the Chinese toy-loving minions of the richest 1%...

Well, actually we don't know any of these things:

Despite the administration's repeated acts of lawlessness, I must confess to a certain naivete. It never occurred to me that Bush didn't care how Congress responded to the problem because he had issued a secret executive order that took the law into his own hands. After all, when he issued a public directive on the matter on continuity in government in 2007, he explicitly pledged to act "consistent[ly]" with the Presidential Succession Act. At the same time, however, his directive refers to a secret appendix. And as Ron Rosenbaum pointed out in Slate, even members of the House Committee on Homeland Security have been denied access to the document.

The committee, and Congress, should not take "no" for an answer. But they should also move beyond the appendix and demand to know whether investigative reports of a secret succession order are well-founded. If Reagan did issue an illegal order, Congress should publicly determine how subsequent administrations dealt with it. Perhaps President George H. W. Bush or Bill Clinton expressly repudiated the order. Or perhaps they reaffirmed it, thereby laying the foundation for President Bush, with the encouragement of Vice President Cheney, to do the same—through a process entirely independent of the administration's formal directives on the subject.

And to think all these years we've been living with a Constitutional Crisis and we didn't even know it! And we thought we'd just forgotten to take out the trash...

There are days when the Editorial Staff wonders how this nation has managed to survive for 230+ years without a bloody military/religious coup? Surely 'tis only the industrious efforts of watchdogs like Mr. Ackerman, who assiduously and with such unflagging zeal lay bare these dangerous treasons lurking in our midst, which have prevented such an unfortunate occurrence? After all, as he so shrewdly points out, in a system of government with no checks and balances it is imperative we discover whether this secret (which is - strictly speaking - not a secret anymore now that Ms. Mayer has gone and written a gosh-durned book about it) it still not-so-secretly ticking away like a not-so-secret time bomb, ready to blow up in our faces when we not-so-secretly expect it?

In any event, it is time for Congress to find out. Even if Reagan's initial illegal order has been rescinded, Congress must deprive it of all value as a precedent. Lawmakers should pass legislation that expressly nullifies all secret orders, present and future, through which the president asserts the imperial privilege of naming his own successor. We must decisively repudiate these illegal moves before they explode in our faces.

Yes. It is imperative. To do otherwise would be to give in to the cynical machinations of those vile, divisive fear-mongering fear mongers we are always warning you about when we remind you that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of except partisan fear mongers who would prefer the politics of fear to principled and reasoned political discourse.

UPDATE: Mein Gott im Himmell!!! Glenn Reynolds has uncovered a real Constitutional crisis!

Who is to blame for this unconscionable abrogation of responsibility in the wake of 9/11? With Congressional approval ratings at an all-time low, we demand an investigation.

If only there one honest man left in Washington. Someone we could count on to place integrity ahead of partisan politics.

Posted by Cassandra at July 17, 2008 07:50 AM

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Oh, the continuity thing. This is a perennial. The last time, I remember that Rumsfeld was the villian.

Posted by: Grim at July 17, 2008 08:54 AM

Cheney shot someone to protect the President's Book?

No, my paper isn't going well. I am irritated.
Very, very irritated.

Posted by: Cricket at July 17, 2008 09:06 AM

I always got a kick out of Le Skunk and the way they drew him to look just a tad like Maurice Chevalier.

Posted by: Cricket at July 17, 2008 09:15 AM

He really has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but I couldn't resist :p

Posted by: Cassandra at July 17, 2008 09:20 AM

...my paper isn't going well. I am irritated.
Very, very irritated.

I feel your pain. My project isn't going well and I'm royally pissed :p I've been mentally punching holes in the wall of my office all week.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 17, 2008 09:21 AM

My goodness, what else is lurking out there, secretly waiting to pounce upon our souls? President Filmore might have ordered the secret construction of bunkers deep within the bowels of Ft. Sumter, which is why it was attacked by the Johnnys!

Posted by: DougW at July 17, 2008 10:49 AM

Better holes in walls than holes in people.


I have tried yet again, to access my paper and stared at it for ten minutes, consulted my notes and reference material.

I know what I want to say. I just don't know how to organize it. I will keep trying.

On a snarky aside: You think her shocking revelations about Reagan were the basis for National Treasure II?

Posted by: Cricket at July 17, 2008 11:46 AM

Just goes to show that Darth Cheney is not omnipotent, else why would he have used bird shot?

On which side of the fence is the razor wire spec'ed out in this continuity plan? Inquiring minds want to know. *mechanical breath resounds in echo chamber*

Posted by: Darth Shredder at July 17, 2008 11:49 AM

Okay, scoff all you like, but even though Slate can't prove the secret order exists, neither can you prove it doesn't. And it goes without saying that everyone knows Reagan and both Bushes are total fascists who would stop at nothing to establish a totalitarian state.

And the minor fact that they have not done so is not proof that they won't. Now you have to excuse me, the voice are getting annoying and it's time to poke them with a Q-tip again.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at July 17, 2008 02:24 PM

*stalking into the underground hangar to prop-start the black helicopter*

Posted by: BillT at July 17, 2008 03:26 PM

We have a totalitarian state? Dang, we're good.
*swats at BillT's helicopter*

Posted by: Cricket at July 17, 2008 05:06 PM

NTSB Identification: BFO08SB0110.
The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number BT0890SP.
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation... Don't Question!
Accident occurred Friday, July 18, 2008 in undisclosed hanger.
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/18/2008
Aircraft: Restricted to cleared NTK personnel.
Registration: Whiteout... er, Blacked OUT
Injuries: Thousands uninjured.


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

Posted by: Mr. Peabody at July 17, 2008 05:20 PM

Well, naturally it broke its tether in the cavern -- the dimbulb proped it instead of propping it.

Geez, how would *you* like it if somebody proped you where the sun don't shine?

Posted by: BillT at July 17, 2008 05:49 PM

"Geez, how would *you* like it if somebody proped you where the sun don't shine? "
Funny you should mention that... J. Edgar Hubris was just in the labs asking the staff questions about Senator Barbara Mikulski's visit to inspect our on-site health clinic.

And with the Democrats in charge, do you thing the NTSB can afford a spell checker? Seriously...

Posted by: Mr. Peabody at July 17, 2008 06:55 PM

...do you thing the NTSB...

My thing is none of the NTSB's beeswax unless it is a "proximate or contributory factor" in the aircraft crash.

Which *has* happened at least once, to my knowledge -- but my thing wasn't involved.

Posted by: BillT at July 18, 2008 01:54 AM

And neither was the rest of me, in the instance to which I referred...

Posted by: BillT at July 18, 2008 03:45 AM

I wonder if religion is truly the opiate of the masses or whether self-delusion is fundamentally it.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 18, 2008 04:14 AM

Self-delusion's been working fine for me, so far...

Posted by: BillT at July 18, 2008 05:07 AM

Bill, did ya hear the latest news? The Democrats are going to put a 50% capital gain and a 25% additional income tax on self-delusion.

This will ensure that rich Democrats will be taxed, as they should be.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 19, 2008 01:49 PM

Then again, I've always been fascinated by Zoroastrianism...

Posted by: BillT at July 19, 2008 02:09 PM

From nefarious Executive Orders concerning the shadow government to Zorro... Heh Only at VC. =8^}


Posted by: bthun at July 19, 2008 02:57 PM

Hey, I'm only trying to shed a little light on the subject.

*waiting to see who -- *aside* from Ymar and Grim -- picks up on that one*

Posted by: BillT at July 19, 2008 03:03 PM

Well, I was going to say something about preferring Chevy's to Mazda's, but Zorro seemed so much more in tune with my inner hillwilliamness.

Posted by: bthun at July 19, 2008 03:14 PM

Six more and we'll have the First Squad, AEF (Allied Eruditionary Force) mustered...

Posted by: BillT at July 19, 2008 03:36 PM

The last really amusing religious/philosophical argument was between the Indian philosophy of Maya, or the Veil of Collusion, vis a vis Plato's Eternal Forms on a shadowed Cave Wall.

Another Ragnarok of a philosophical argument and we might get a three some going.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 19, 2008 10:38 PM

Did I say Collusion? Sorry, I must have been thinking of Benedict Arnold. I meant Illusion.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 19, 2008 10:38 PM

I was thinking about my knees and thought you said "collagen" -- which I don't have much of behind my Benedict Arnold patellae...

Posted by: BillT at July 20, 2008 03:47 AM