In a stunning move for the famously liberal New York Times, the newspaper printed an editorial calling for a dramatic change in the laws governing presidential succession.
In other words, the newspaper’s idea would mean that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. would NOT be allowed to become president even if both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are impeached.
“The speaker of the House, like any member of Congress, should be nowhere near the line of succession to the presidency,” Jesse Wegman, a member of the Times editorial board, wrote a lengthy and thorough call for action.
Not only does it undermine the will of the people in a presidential election, it also means Pelosi would preside over an impeachment that could end with her in the White House.
Wegman called that a “whopping conflict of interest.”
Wegman’s essay echoed an editorial last month published by Bloomberg, which also urged a change to the laws of presidential succession.
“It’s always been a mistake to insert members of Congress into the presidential line of succession,” wrote Jonathan Bernstein, who taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University. “It’s contrary to the entire structure of the constitutional system, which separates legislative from executive institutions and forces them to share powers.”
Bernstein not only urged a change in succession laws, but called on Congress to make that change right now, before impeachment proceedings get under way, to remove that conflict of interest from the start.
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The idea of Pelosi dispatching of both Trump and Pence and seizing the presidency for herself has been the stuff of leftist dreams since the day she ascended to the speaker’s chair after last year’s midterm elections.
It might seem far-fetched.
And maybe it is.
But there are scenarios in which it could happen.
One would be going after Pence first — a la Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigning before Nixon – then impeaching Trump before the vacant VP slot is filled. Another would be to impeach Trump, allow Pence to take over, and then impeach him as well — again before a new VP is confirmed.
Either scenario gives Pelosi another conflict of interest: Both bodies of Congress have to approve any new VP pick, a process that has happened twice in recent years and wasn’t quick either time.
When Agnew resigned, it was nearly two months before Gerald Ford was confirmed. When Ford became president, it took more than four months to confirm Nelson Rockefeller as vice president.
As speaker of the House, Pelosi can stymie that process even further – delaying the vote and giving impeachment more time to proceed so that she remains next in line for the presidency.
Beyond her position being an obvious conflict… and beyond replacing a duly elected president and vice president with someone who has never won a national election… putting the speaker in the White House negates the results of the election on an even higher level.
When American voters choose their president, they’re not just choosing an individual. They’re choosing a platform – and someone to carry it out with an administration made up of the people he picks for the job.
As Wegman notes, President Dwight Eisenhower summed it up best: “I believe that if the electorate says that such-and-such a party should have the White House for four years, it ought to have the White House for four years.”
A President Pelosi, unlike a president from within the Trump administration, would take the White House away from the choice of the electorate.
The obvious answer would be to restore the old succession order.
That would mean after the vice president, members of the Cabinet would be next in line, with the previous order offering a good start: secretary of state, followed by the secretary of defense and then the attorney general.
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The only question is whether an ambitious Pelosi – whose only path to the White House would be through impeachment – would allow it to happen.
— Walter W. Murray is a reporter for The Horn News. He is an outspoken conservative and a survival expert, and is the author of “America’s Final Warning.”