Partridge: President John Ashcroft - A Scenario
President John Ashcroft: A Scenario
Ashcroft, or anyone, is three legal steps from being appointed president.
Co-Editor "The Crisis Papers"
October 18, 2004
Within a year, Dick Cheney could, on his own, select John Ashcroft as the forty-fifth President of the United States, without a single citizen vote cast for or against Ashcroft. And it would all be legal.
This event is not only possible, it may be more plausible than any of us dare imagine. And yet, this consequence of a Bush-Cheney victory in November is rarely if ever contemplated.
If, following his victory in two weeks, George Bush were to die in office, or be impeached and convicted by the Senate, or resign, or be declared incompetent by a majority of his cabinet and two-thirds of the Congress, Dick Cheney would become President. He would then appoint a new Vice President subject to confirmation by majority of both houses of Congress.
Then, if Cheney were to resign, the appointed Vice President would become President.
That new President could be anybody, provided he is confirmed by the Congress. I picked Ashcroft as an attention-grabbing “place marker.” It might, instead, be Jeb Bush, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh – anybody. Take your pick.
It’s in the Twenty-Fifth amendment to the Constitution, ratified February 10, 1967. Two of the three steps in this process have been carried out. Remember Vice President Nelson Rockefeller? He was nominated by Gerald Ford and confirmed by the Congress in December, 1974. Ford, of course, became President upon the resignation of Richard Nixon.
But isn’t House Speaker Dennis Hastert the “third in line”? Well, yes and no. If both offices of President and Vice President were to be vacated before the above procedure could be carried out, then Hastert would become President. Otherwise, the appointed Vice President would become President.
Twice in recent history, the office of Vice President has been vacant: following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1945, and following the assassination of John Kennedy in November, 1963. The latter event prompted the Congress and thirty-eight stage legislatures to ratify the twenty-fifth amendment four years and three months after Kennedy was murdered in Dallas.
It is becoming ever-more apparent to those who dare notice, that, as Garrison Keillor puts it, our President is a few bulbs short of a full marquee. Moreover, as time goes on, more and more bulbs seem to be blinking out.
Though Bush’s White House is the most sheltered and secretive in recent history, ominous reports are leaking out.
President George W. Bush is taking powerful anti-depressant drugs to control his erratic behavior, depression and paranoia, Capitol Hill Blue has learned.
The prescription drugs, administered by Col. Richard J. Tubb, the White House physician, can impair the President's mental faculties and decrease both his physical capabilities and his ability to respond to a crisis, administration aides admit privately...
Bush's mental stability has become the topic of Washington whispers in recent months. Capitol Hill Blue first reported on June 4 about increasing concern among White House aides over the President's wide mood swings and obscene outbursts....
One long-time GOP political consultant who - for obvious reasons - asked not to be identified said he is advising his Republican Congressional candidates to keep their distance from Bush.
"We have to face the very real possibility that the President of the United States is loony tunes," he says sadly. "That's not good for my candidates, it's not good for the party and it's certainly not good for the country."
At Salon.com’s “War Room” Katherine Mieszkowski has been keeping tabs on various reports on Bush’s condition. For example, last Friday (October 15), she quoted the following from Dr. W. Kendall Tonier, a Dallas anesthesiologist:
“Having watched the first two debates from start to finish, I was looking forward to listening to a spirited debate between Bush and Kerry. Unfortunately, I barely heard a word that was said. Instead, I found myself staring at and concentrating on the President's drooping mouth.
"As a physician and a professor, I tend to pick up on signs and symptoms of physical problems better than most other people. I am highly concerned with what I saw. The drooping left side of the President's face, his mouth and nasolabial fold (the crease in the face running from the nostril to the side of mouth) may be indicative of a recent stroke, TIA (transient ischemic attack)) or, possibly botox injections. I sincerely hope this was nothing more than botox injections.
Salon.com's “War Room” remains an excellent “gateway” to other sites and publications dealing with this issue.
Finally, last Sunday The Observer from the United Kingdom, published Andrew Stephen’s disturbing article, “Has Bush Lost His Reason?” It deserves a sober and careful reading. Stephen writes:
[T]he momentous decision awaiting Americans is ... whether they re-elect a man who, it is now clear, has become palpably unstable.
The evidence has been before our eyes for some time, but only during the course of this election campaign has it crystallised - just in time, possibly, for the 2 November election. The 43rd US President has always had a much-publicised knack for mangled syntax, but now George Bush often searches an agonisingly long time, sometimes in vain, for the right words. His mind simply blanks out at crucial times. He is prone, I am told, to foul-mouthed temper tantrums in the White House. His handlers now rarely allow him to speak an unscripted word in public...
I have been examining videos of his first 1994 debate with Ann Richards, the Governor of Texas, who he was about to supplant, and of his 2000 debates with Al Gore. In his one and only debate with Richards a decade ago, Bush was fluent and disciplined; with Gore, he had lost some of that polish but was still articulate, with frequent invocations of his supposed 'compassionate conservatism'.
It is thus hard to avoid the conclusion that Bush's cognitive functioning is not, for some reason, what it once was. I am not qualified to say why this is so. It would not be surprising if he was under enormous stress, particularly after the 9/11 atrocities in 2001, and I gather this could explain much, if not everything...
A senior Republican, experienced and wise in the ways of Washington, told me last Friday that he does not necessarily accept that Bush is unstable, but what is clear, he added, is that he is now manifestly unfit to be President.
This, too, is a view that is widely felt, but seldom articulated and then only in private, within the Republican as well as Democratic establishments in Washington.
Diagnosis at a distance is fallible, to be sure. But it is all that the public will get, since we can be assured that if the results of comprehensive first-hand examination confirm these observations, the White House will see to it that we never hear of it.
So let’s reflect upon what we already know about Bush's behavior.
We know that Bush rarely gives press conferences, and when he does they are either scripted or tightly controlled. During the current campaign, he has spoken from scripts to pre-selected supporters who feed him soft, even adoring, “questions.” And there is growing speculation that at public appearances, Bush is prompted by a hidden listening device.
On only three occasions has Bush been obliged to stand alone, presumably unassisted, and face unanticipated questions and the critical responses of a worthy adversary. These, of course, were the Presidential Debates. And we all know how those turned out for Bush: disaster!
Summing up: There is good reason to suspect, though not to conclude, that George Bush is unfit to function in the office of President of the United States, and that his deteriorating condition is such that he would be unable to complete a second term.
However, the urgent question within the inner circle of his campaign is not “can he last another four years?” It is “can he last another two weeks?” If team Bush can successfully get past the election, or still better the January inauguration, they can then begin to crank up the Twenty-Fifth.
Let's assume that the “inner circle” of Bush, Inc. (presumably chaired by Dick Cheney), is well aware that their “front man” will not last more than a few months into the second term. And so, even now, they are planning The Succession. Cheney’s doctors have told him, in no uncertain terms, that he cannot long survive the rigors of the office. So they are now looking ahead for an appointed Vice President and heir-apparent.
He or she could be anyone who fits the constitutional requirements: natural-born citizen and over 35 years of age. At the insistence of the Christian Right, to whom, after all, they owe the election, and of Tom DeLay and the radical Congressional Republicans, without whom they can not accomplish their program, they select John Ashcroft.
(Pick another successor if your prefer. The main point of this scenario is to consider the process).
Step One: Bush leaves office. He might do so voluntarily by simply resigning. If he refuses to leave, a majority of cabinet votes him out, sends their declaration of the president’s incapacity to Congress, whereupon a two-thirds majority of both houses sustain the cabinet’s declaration. If, by that time, George Bush is certifiably Bonkers, those super-majorities should pose no problem.
Step Two: Dick Cheney becomes President, and shortly thereafter, nominates John Ashcroft to be the new Vice President. This time, only a simple majority of both houses of Congress is required.
Step Three: Cheney resigns “for reasons of health.”
Hail to the Chief: President John Ashcroft.
Or, if not Ashcroft, then anyone else who Dick Cheney might select, all by himself, subject to the approval of Tom DeLay's House and Bill Frist's Senate.
All this in strict accordance with the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
Such a dreadful prospect can, and must, be stopped before it starts, by the collective will of the people of the United States on November 2.
Copyright 2004 by Ernest Partridge
Bio-Tag: Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" ( www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" ( www.crisispapers.org).