Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Norm Ornstein, Part 2

We look forward -- cough, cough -- to tonight's State of the Union. As you may know, "customarily one member of the president's cabinet does not attend. This precaution is taken to provide continuity in the presidency in the event a catastrophe were to result in the death or disablement of the president, the vice president and other officials in the line of presidential succession gathered in the house chamber."

In addition, as a result of cursory post-9/11 thinking, starting in 2003 two members of each house of Congress, representing both parties, have also been absent in order to ensure some continuity.

No, no, no! says Norm Ornstein. You're all in denial and missing the big picture. If a catastrophe in D.C. wipes out the president and a sizeable part of the executive branch and/or a sizeable part of Congress, we are in deep doo-doo, ill-prepared for the Constitutional chaos that will ensue. There is no realistic plan in place to deal with this -- Constitutional or otherwise -- and nobody in power seems willing to deal with it seriously.

Despite initial consensus after 9/11 that something should be done, following the creation of and report from the Continuity of Government Commission, no actions have been taken.

(I know many of you are thinking that that kind of catastrophe might be just what we need, but be careful what you wish for.)

This is both tragic and fascinating... the inability of our leaders to plan regarding their own demise, especially in an era of so-called "homeland security". Read more at the Commission website, an Ornstein article in Roll Call and a Michelle Cottle article in the June, 2003 Atlantic Magazine "Norman Ornstein's Doomsday Scenario."

Cartoon from Clay Bennett, Christian Science Monitor

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