I know, I know, it sounds like a West Wing episode. (It was, once; Speaker John Goodman took over, briefly.) But it could work and it’s constitutional. New York Times columnist Gail Collins says she is serious. She makes the suggestion in her Saturday morning column.
Okay, maybe not real serious. But it is possible. Here is how it would work: Both Bush and Cheney resign and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi takes over. The succession plan is constitutional. You can look it up. Under the Succession Act, the Speaker, in this case a woman, becomes president. We would have a woman as president in 2008. (Nod to Hillary.)
The Speaker would certainly defer to Barack Obama to act as the unofficial president until Jan 20. Here is the nub of the Collins’ plan:
. . . Seriously. We have an economy that’s crashing and a vacuum at the top. Bush — who is currently on a trip to Peru to meet with Asian leaders who no longer care what he thinks — hasn’t got the clout, or possibly even the energy, to do anything useful. His most recent contribution to resolving the fiscal crisis was lecturing representatives of the world’s most important economies on the glories of free-market capitalism.
Putting Barack Obama in charge immediately isn’t impossible. Dick Cheney, obviously, would have to quit as well as Bush. In fact, just to be on the safe side, the vice president ought to turn in his resignation first. (We’re desperate, but not crazy.). . .
The Bush and Cheney families would remain in their homes until January 20. But their fingers would be removed from all the buttons and the Obama economic team would assume command.
We would not let Bush rush through all those last minute environmental changes. But he could pardon his cronies. Otherwise he might not agree to the deal.
History would remember Bush and Cheney as two leaders who put country first. (Nod to McCain.) President-Elect Barack Obama will take over January 20 anyway. Let him start now. Makes sense to me. As Madeline Albright once said to Colin Powell in another context: We have that Succession Act, why not use it?
Meanwhile, back in the real world:
We have all been wondering, Why would Hillary Clinton even want to be Secretary of State? New York magazine’s John Heilemann makes sense with his description of the complex relationship between Hillary and Barack. Here is a part of what he writes:
What’s she thinking? What’s her game? No doubt part of the reason her people began leaking word that she’s not certain she wants the gig was to cushion the blow in case the Bubba vet turned ugly. But one person who knows her well told me she was genuinely torn.
“She likes the Senate, likes working on a wider range of issues, likes that she’s answerable to herself,” this person said. Did the thought of Obama’s being her boss give her pause? “A lot of ground has been made up in the relationship. She’s flattered by this.” Did she feel like it was handled well? Or that with the leaks and the delay, she was left twisting in the wind? “Not at all. She’s impressed that he did it despite knowing it would be controversial. It says that he really wants her.
Heilermann has this take on Obama, which is right on target: “In all the dizzying personal and political complexities of Hillary at State, one thing is clear: Obama has nerve.” A good thing, nerve, when our next president starts looking into the souls of world leaders.
Then there is the strange case of Joe Lieberman, a man who trashes the Democratic candidate for months, travels the world with the Republican candidate, whispering corrections into his ear, and then gets to keep his “cherished” chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security committee.
Any reasonable senator would have punished Joe and tossed him out of the chair. What would he have done? Become a member of the Republican party which is out of power for at least the next decade?
So Joe keeps his chair because Obama, the Don Vito Corleone of this real life drama, nods ever so quietly to his Senate colleagues: The Message: Keep Joe happy. Why would Obama do such a thing? He has nerve, that’s why. And he is smart: He puts Janet Napoliano in his cabinet to run Homeland Security, where she will watch Joe.
Here is how it plays out. The Democratic party has (at least) two factions, two of which are the Progressive Peace Wing that has a pretty good idea that the road to peace goes through Tel Aviv, and the War Wing that is slightly to the right of the Israeli Kadima party. It also serves as the US branch of Kadima.
Obama needs both factions to get stuff through the Senate. The Peace Wing is giving him slack while the country basks in the warm glow of the new Abraham Lincoln in power, so it just grumbles about Joe.
The War Wing is happy with Joe at Homeland Security and Hillary Clinton at State. Yes, she is a member of the Democratic War Wing; think back, pilgrim, she never could bring herself to admit she was wrong on her Iraq vote. Speaking on the Senate floor in 2002, she specifically linked Al Qaeda to Saddam. The Republican Right would welome her appointment.
You need evidence of the War Wing in action? Start with the senators who carried out Don Corleone’s orders. Alternet.org explains “How Lieberman Kept His Post“. It fingers Joe’s tight-knit support team:
They had more than two and a half weeks to organize around this,” said one high-ranking aide who favored Lieberman being stripped of his post. “And the fact of the matter is, Reid basically met with Lieberman 48 hours after the election was over. During that time it seemed like he was leaning towards stripping Lieberman of his committee chairmanship. But once that word came out, the only folks who were organized were the pro-Lieberman supporters.”
The problem, the aide reluctantly ceded, was an absence of coordinated progressive leadership. While the pro-Lieberman allies were out in force — led by Sens. Chris Dodd, Ken Salazar, Tom Carper, and Bill Nelson — the Senators who wanted a harsher punishment held their cards tightly. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders ultimately let it be known that they wanted Lieberman punished, but they did so on a dead-news Friday. (Emphasis added)
The senators highlighted above have been together before. Here is a column in Salon by Glenn Greenwald from Thursday (November 20) which reports on the a court decision to free five prisoners from Gitmo:
A federal district judge, Richard Leon, today ordered the Bush administration “forthwith” to release five Algerian detaineeswho have been held in Guantanamo without charges since January, 2002 — almost seven full years. The decision was based on the court’s finding that there was no credible evidence that the 5 detainees intended to take up arms against the U.S. The court found sufficient evidence to justify the ongoing detention of a sixth Algerian detainee.When they were detained in 2001 in Bosnia, the Bush administration claimed that they were plotting to bomb the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo. But once they were shipped to Guantanamo, the U.S. backed off that accusation and instead claimed they intended to travel to Afghanistan to fight against the U.S. . . .
. . .The five men ordered released today have been imprisoned in a cage by the Bush administration for 7 straight years without being charged with any crimes and without there being any credible evidence that they did anything wrong. If the members of Congress who voted for the Military Commissions Act had their way (see them here and here), or if the four Supreme Court Justices in the Boumediene minority had theirs, the Bush administration would nonetheless have been empowered to keep them encaged indefinitely, for the rest of their lives if desired, without ever having to charge them with any crime or allow them to step foot into a courtroom to petition for habeas corpus.
In addition to every Republican Senator (except Chafee), those voting to authorize that repellent power include Jay Rockefeller, Ken Salazar, Tom Carper, Ben and Bill Nelson, Debbie Stabenow, and Joe Lieberman. (emphasis added). . .
The Democratic party’s War Wing has hung tight with the Republican minority to allow George Bush to hold five men, unjustly, as prisoners at Gitmo, for seven years. Take note of those names: Salazar, Carper, Nelson, Lieberman. You are looking at the core of the War Wing.
There are others in the Wing, of course, Hillary Clinton included. Follow their votes on matters involving Iraq, Iran and Israel. It is an interesting and a frightening pattern.
Our very smart President-Elect knows this Senate. He knows he will need all their Democratic members. So ask not how Joe Lieberman survived. Just remain alert to the actions of the US Senate as its Democratic majority works with President-Elect Obama. It is the way the game is played.
Nobody ever said the political process would be pretty.