2003: Presidential Succession
Title text: Ties are broken by whoever was closest to the surface of Europa when they were born.
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The United States presidential line of succession is the order of people who serve as president if the current incumbent president is incapacitated, dies, resigns, or is removed from office.
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 was an act by the U.S. Congress that revised the presidential order of succession to its current order. This act, though never challenged in the courts, may not be constitutional for two reasons. First, it is unclear whether members of Congress can be designated in the line of succession. Secondly, the act allows for a cabinet officer to be "replaced" as acting President by a new Speaker of the House or a new President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
An additional concern regarding the Act is that after the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the line of succession list the members of the Cabinet in the order that their department was established with the oldest departments first, irrespective of the Secretary's personal fitness or appropriateness of the office. The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of the security and protection of the United States and its citizens and would probably already be privy to sensitive intelligence and briefings related to national security, but because it is the latest of the Departments to have been established (in 2003) the Secretary of Homeland Security is all the way at the bottom of the current Presidential line of succession at 18th, behind other Secretaries such as that of Agriculture (9th) and Education (16th).
The full text of the Second Report of the Continuity of Government Commission can be found here: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/06_continuity_of_government.pdf
The first 6 members of Randall's list are included in the current line of succession. After the top 6, his list ranges from politicians, to actors who have played Presidents, to athletes.
Randall's list omits the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, as well as many other cabinet positions. Perhaps he does not find those people qualified to become President of the United States, or is concerned about the constitutionality of lawmakers becoming President. However, he does not seem to be concerned about constitutionality, because he included the entire line of succession to the British throne, most of whom are do not meet the requirement to be a natural-born citizen of the United States.
Randall's list includes several other people who also might not be eligible to become President either because they are not natural-born U.S. citizens (e.g., as of the time of the comic's publication, Serena Williams had withdrawn from her last match in the French Open to Maria Sharapova, who is Russian) or they are under 35 years of age (Russell Westbrook, the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player at the time of the comic's publication, was only 29 years old). These would mainly be athletes due to the relatively global reach of the four major professional sports leagues in North America and the fact that 35 is quite old for a professional athlete, let alone one who is good enough to win the league MVP. Presumably, those who wouldn't qualify for the office of President would be skipped over like in real life -- at the comic's publication, Elaine Chao was the Secretary of Transportation and would normally be 14th in line, but because she is a naturalized citizen of the US (she was born in Taiwan) she would not qualify for the office if the line came to her.
This is another comic in the continuing line of comics about American politics, especially after the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016.
Order of succession
|#||Randall's order||Current order by the 1947 Act||Notes|
|1||President||President||Not generally considered part of the line of succession, as incumbents cannot "succeed" to their own post.|
|2||Vice president||Vice president||No change|
|3||Secretary of State||Speaker of the House of Representatives||Moved up from 5th position. This is likely a serious suggestion. Existing rules of succession hand Executive power to the leaders of the Legislative branch if the President and Vice-President are both killed or removed from power. This is troubling for a number of reasons. One is that the Executive and Legislative branches are supposed to act as independent checks on one another's power, and so are supposed to be kept separate. Another issue is that the Executive and Legislative branches are frequently controlled by political rivals from different political parties. In such a case, assassins could effectively reverse the results of Presidential elections if they managed to kill the President and Vice-President in a short period of time. Additionally, leaders of the House and Senate aren't as deeply connected to the military and diplomatic missions of the country, and so would have a hard time maintaining continuity, particularly if an attack or disaster killed multiple national leaders at once. These problems could all be addressed by keeping the initial Line of Succession confined to the Executive branch of government.|
|4||Secretary of Defense||President pro tempore of the Senate||Moved up from 7th position|
|5||Secretary of Homeland Security||Secretary of State||Moved up from 19th position, possibly to highlight the Attorney General's place in the current order|
|6||Attorney General||Secretary of the Treasury||Moved up from 8th position|
|7||Five people who do not live in Washington DC, nominated at the start of the President's term and confirmed by the Senate||Secretary of Defense||Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States, and is where the White House, the President's residence, is located. Presumably this provision covers the case where much of the government, including positions 1–6 here, are killed by a natural disaster or attack in Washington, D.C.
This suggestion establishes no qualifications for these people, but the fact that they'd need to be confirmed by the Senate suggests that they would be chosen to be competent for the role. It is also unclear if an order is determined among these 5 or if they take up a joint presidency. This suggestion is taken from the Second Report of the Continuity of Government Commission as a potential mechanism to ensure members of succession are not in Washington DC during a catastrophic attack.
|8||Tom Hanks||Attorney General||Academy Award-winning American actor. This is the first unambiguously unserious suggestion. Tom Hanks is very popular and considered exceptionally likeable by many Americans, but has never served in public office or displayed any particular affinity for politics. The implication is that Mr. Hanks would be easily accepted as a leader, based solely on his personal charm.|
|9||State Governors, in descending order of state population at last census||Secretary of the Interior||At the time of publication, the last United States Census was the 2010 Census. Also taken from Second Report of the Continuity of Government Commission. As California is the most populous state, Gov Jerry Brown would be first in line.|
|10||Anyone who won an Oscar for playing a governor||Secretary of Agriculture||Oscars, or Academy Awards, are annual film awards awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. At the time of publication, the only Oscar awarded for playing a governor was Broderick Crawford's 1949 Best Actor award for the fictional Willie Stark in All the King's Men (a character based on Huey Long). However, Crawford died in 1986, so would be unable to serve as President.
May be a reference to the Political career of Arnold Schwarzenegger: a highly-lauded actor who became governor of California, but did not win an Oscar or play a governor before being elected.
|11||Anyone who won a Governor's award for playing someone named Oscar||Secretary of Commerce||The Governors Awards are an annual award ceremony hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to present lifetime achievement awards within the film industry. As this award is a lifetime achievement award, it does not seem possible that an actor could win this award for simply playing someone named Oscar. Notwithstanding the nature of the award, at the time of publication, no recipient of a Governors Award has played a character named Oscar.
Obviously, the joke is that changing the order of the words from the previous proposal produces something that could actually exist.
|12||Kate McKinnon, if available||Secretary of Labor||Comedic actress famous for being a cast member on Saturday Night Live. She is known for her character work and celebrity impressions. She has recently done impersonations of members of the Trump administration including Spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.|
|13||Billboard Year-End Hot 100 Singles artists #1 through #10 (for groups, whoever is credited first in name, liner notes, etc)||Secretary of Health and Human Services||The Billboard Hot 100 is the music industry standard record chart in the United States for singles, published weekly by Billboard magazine. The weekly data is aggregated into a cumulative Billboard Year-End (based on a "year" that ends the third week of November, in order to meet December publication deadlines). At the time of publication, the most recent such list was the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 2017.
Based on that list, the artists considered for the presidential succession would be: Ed Sheeran, Luis Fonsi, Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar, Alex Pall (of The Chainsmokers), Quavoius Keyate Marshall (of Migos), Sam Hunt, Dan Reynolds (of Imagine Dragons, and Post Malone. There are only nine names instead of ten because The Chainsmokers had two of the top 10 singles in 2017. Of these, only Luis Fonsi (40 years old, and born in Puerto Rico) is legally eligible for the office; Sheeran was born in the UK, and the other seven are too young.
|14||The top 5 US astronauts in descending order of total spaceflight time||Secretary of Housing and Urban Development||Astronauts are highly respected and rigorously selected. The top 5 US astronauts with the most space time are: Scott Kelly (879 total days), Peggy Whitson (665), Michael López-Alegría (215)|
|15||Serena Williams (or, if she lost her most recent match, whoever beat her)||Secretary of Transportation||As of the time of publication, Serena Williams was the top female tennis player (though not the world #1 ranking, because she took time off for pregnancy). She is arguably the greatest female tennis player of all-time, winning 39 Grand Slam titles, including 23 women's singles titles. At the time of publication Serena Williams did win her most recent match (third round French Open 2018 on June 2nd), although she withdrew from her next match against Maria Sharapova.
If her most recent defeat was to a non-US player, it is unclear whether that person would still qualify for President (the current succession list skips over anyone who would not normally qualify for not being a natural-born US citizen).
|16||The most recent season NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL MVPs||Secretary of Energy||MVP stands for Most Valuable Player. The 4 listed leagues are the major sports leagues in the United States, the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Hockey League (NHL).
As of the time of publication, the most recent MVPs for the listed sports are Russell Westbrook (NBA), Tom Brady (NFL), José Altuve and Giancarlo Stanton (MLB has two, one for the American League and one for the National League), and Connor McDavid (NHL). Of these, only Brady would qualify for the list - Altuve and McDavid are not US citizens (the former is from Venezuela and the latter from Canada), and Westbrook (29) and Stanton (28) are too young.
|17||Bill Pullman and his descendants by absolute primogeniture||Secretary of Education||American actor, known for playing President Thomas J. Whitmore in the 1996 film Independence Day, as a named variation for #10 on the proposed succession list.
Absolute primogeniture is a form of succession where the oldest direct descendant regardless of gender receives the title. This is contrasted to Male-preference primogeniture, in which males come before females in the order of the throne, whether the males were born first or not. This may be a reference to the British law Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which changed the order of the throne from male-preference primogeniture to absolute primogeniture. This act allows Princess Charlotte to retain her place in line before Prince Louis.
As of the present, Pullman's immediate descendants consist of three children, with Maesa Pullman being the oldest at age 29 and hence ineligible for the presidency.
|18||The entire line of succession to the British throne||Secretary of Veterans Affairs||According to the Constitution, only a natural-born citizen of the United States can become President, which means that at least most of the line of succession to the British throne is ineligible. However, it is possible that someone in the line of succession to the British throne either is a dual citizen (especially one who is a U.S. citizen based on place of birth and a British citizen based on having a parent who was a British citizen descended from Sofia of Hanover) or is not British (a person from outside of Britain can become King; for example, some, including George the First, were from what is now Germany).
The first 57 names on the list are here, as of the time of publication. British Line of Succession on 6 June 2018 shows the list as it was at the comic's publication. In theory this entry includes several thousand people, although most or all are ineligible due to not being natural born citizens of the United States.
The humor here derives from the fact that the United States was established by declaring independence from the United Kingdom, with rejection of the British monarchy being a basic founding principle, and a core principle of US governance. To appoint the British monarchy to the American presidency would contradict the basic goals of American independence.
This entry may be a reference to the the comedy movie King Ralph, which revolves around an American ascending the British throne after the entire royal family dies.
Alternitavely it may refer to the recent wedding of Prince Henry to an American. If they were to have children and they were born on US soil they would qualify. However there are currently no rumours that she is 'up the duff'
|19||The current champion of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest||Secretary of Homeland Security||The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is an annual American hot dog competitive eating competition sponsored by Nathan's Famous held on July 4th. As of the time of publication, the most recent men's winner is Joey Chestnut and the women's winner is Miki Sudo. Neither is currently old enough to assume the office.|
|20||All other US citizens, chosen by a 29-round single-elimination Jousting tournament||None||Effective for a population up to 536,870,912 individuals (2^29) which would be enough to cover the entire US population (estimated at around 325 million at time of publication), although additional rounds can be added should the population grow further.
This is probably a reference to the Matter of Britain e.g. The Sword in the Stone (film), where, after the death of Uther Pendragon, with no known successor to the throne of England for years, it is decided that the winner of a jousting tournament shall be crowned. However, Arthur, the Wart, pulls the Sword from the Stone.
The title text mentions whoever was closest to the surface of Europa when they were born. Europa is a moon of Jupiter, so most people would be very far from its surface when they were born. However, depending on the relative positions of Earth and Jupiter when you were born, you could easily have been tens of millions of kilometers closer. Alternatively, Randall could be playing on how Europa sounds like Europe.
|This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.|
- A proposal for a new presidential line of succession
- Current politics aside, most experts agree the existing process is flawed. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 is probably unconstitutional on several counts, and there are many practical issues with the system as well.
- (For more, see the surprisingly gripping Second Report of the Continuity of Government Commission, June 2009.)
- Proposed line of succession:
- Vice president
- Secretary of State
- Secretary of Defense
- Secretary of Homeland Security
- Attorney General
- Five people who do not live in Washington DC, nominated at the start of the president's term and confirmed by the Senate
- Tom Hanks
- State Governors, in descending order of state population at last census
- Anyone who won an Oscar for playing a governor
- Anyone who won a Governor's award for playing someone named Oscar
- Kate McKinnon, if available
- Billboard year-end hot 100 singles artists #1 through #10 (for groups, whoever is credited first in name, liner notes, etc)
- The top 5 US astronauts in descending order of total spaceflight time
- Serena Williams (or, if she lost her most recent match, whoever beat her)
- The most recent season NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL MVPs
- Bull Pullman and his descendants by absolute primogeniture
- The entire line of succession to the British throne
- The current champion of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest
- All other US citizens, chosen by a 29-round single-elimination Jousting tournament
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