Skip to comments.Presidential Line of Succession (Vanity)
Posted on 01/11/2012 10:14:47 AM PST by Former Fetus
Yesterday I was helping my son study for a test in his Government class, and he asked me if I knew what Secretary of State had become President for about 3 hrs. My best guess is Alexander Haig, when he took control after President Reagan was shot and VP Bush was in his way to Texas. Am I right or has there been another case of a Secretary of State becoming acting President. And, if I'm right, why did he jump ahead of the Speaker of the House and President pro-term of the Senate?
These may be very simple questions to y'all, but when Reagan was shot I was a foreign graduate student at the American University in DC. When I studied for the citizenship exam I never read anything about a Secretary of State taking over the reins of the country. So I will appreciate any information.
To my knowledge no SecState has become President or acting President in an official capacity.
Not true. Also, Haig had said something to the effect that he was “in charge, here at the White House” after the assassination attempt. The media ran with it claiming that Haig had claimed that he was President for that period.
I think it would be a great debate question, and guess who would be the only person knowing the answer?
Haig didn’t become acting president. His line, “I’m in charge here,” which I took to mean he was trying to keep things under control at the White House while Bush was traveling, was mistaken to mean he taken over. He hadn’t. Any power transfer would have been to VP Bush (I don’t recall if that was done.) Plus, the Secretary of State is fourth in line after the VP, the Speaker of the House, and the Sentate President Pro Tempore.
Thanks. Apparently it was something that was mentioned in class (and he missed it in his notes) so he can take it up with his teacher! More likely, my son misunderstood the teacher. Thanks anyhow!!
I am not aware of any instance where a Secretary of State was in command due to succession. There have been several people who once served as Secretary that were elected as President, but none have succeeded to the office besides the Vice-President. Haig stated he was in charge while the VP traveled, but that overlooked the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. I think Haig meant to say, “I’m answering the phones.”
Haig was widely criticized for his claim, although I don't think he was actually claiming he was "in charge of the country".
The line of succession was changed by Harry Truman in 1945, a couple of months after he succeeded FDR. He inserted the Speaker of the House and Pres of the Senate in front of the cabinet members, and congress approved it. And it was also about that time, I think, that the Secretary of War became the Secretary of Defense (kind of a weasel-wording of the same office).
You’re right. Of course, the MSM hyperventilated over his statement...like the hysterical morons they are!
“Also, Haig had said something to the effect that he was ‘in charge, here at the White House’ after the assassination attempt. The media ran with it claiming that Haig had claimed that he was President for that period.”
Yeah, it was one of those things, like the recent “I like to fire people,” that sounds too good to be taken for what it is. Incidentally, I seem to remember an Oliver Stone produced tv movie a few years back which presented Haig and the rest of the bunch as bungling around for a few hours trying to tell their asses from their elbows. Unfortunately, tapes were released around the same time demonstrating it all went down as you might have guessed: in a cloud of boring everyday bureaucracy.
Prior to that, the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy were both cabinet-level positions. The change to "Secretary of Defense" was not only a change of wording, but a combination of two departments into one.
Aha! Thanks for bringing that back from under the cobwebs in my head!
Some people claim that David R. Atchison was President of the US for one day (March 4, 1849) because Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore were not sworn in until the next day (since the 4th was a Sunday). Atchison was then President Pro Tem of the Senate. He was never sworn in as President but did talk about the claim in later years, and on his tombstone it says he was President for one day. The claim seems to be generally dismissed—Taylor was President.
Thomas Jefferson, but he had to run for and win it years after serving in that post during the first three years of Washington’s administration (trick answer). The order of presidential succession has never gotten past Vice President and into the realms of Speaker of the House or Secretary of State. John Quincy Adams is another, I think, who became president after previously serving as Sec. of State.
There was only a 62 year period where the Secretary of State was the second in line of succession to the Presidency, (1885 to 1947). During that period, there were only 6 times that there was a President without a Vice President: Grover Cleaveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft, Calvin Coolidge, and Harry Truman.
As far as I can see, none of these Presidents had a period of incapacitation that would have allowed their Secretary of State to be considered “acting President”.
When John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton stepped in, took over, made the decisions and gave the orders until Vice President Andrew Johnson could be sworn in. That could have made him “acting” president, if only for a short time.
Hopefully we never have to add Hillary to that list!
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