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An Eye on the White House


March 30, 2017

Attorney, Athlete, and Agriculturalist: The Presidential Line of Succession, Part 3

When the President of the United States takes an unforeseen absence, the presidential line of succession determines who steps in to fill his shoes. Typically, that honour goes to the Vice President. But if this successor should suffer a similar fate, another must swiftly takes his place – and so on.

Previous posts looked at the top three contenders, followed by the second round of successors. Today, we’ll hold to tradition and try on the seventh, eight, and ninth suits in this long presidential line.

#7 Jeff Sessions

No other name in Washington evokes a sense of overbearing southern-ness quite like Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

For a man among President Trump’s earliest supporters, the Office of Attorney general seems a fitting reward. During his 20-year tenure as an Alabama Senator, Sessions was a lawyer with his eyes on the federal bench. But his nomination was quashed by controversy.

Today, Sessions sits pretty as the country’s highest law enforcement official, giving his former critics what-for.

As president, Sessions would not be too different from the current leader. Jeff Sessions and Trump are alike on nearly every plank of presidential policy, from the environment (“Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food”) to immigration and most everything in between. The only sticking point between them is on infrastructure.

While Sessions loves the idea of a border wall, he’s loathe to pay for it. President Sessions would prefer a more modest solution – perhaps a ditch or a particularly nasty fence.

#8 Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke hates trees and loves freedom.

Zinke entered college on a football scholarship and became a star linebacker. He transferred that energy and physical prowess to the battlefield, where he served as a Navy SEAL for 23 years. Zinke was even on Seal Team Six before they were cool.

When he returned to his homeland, Ryan Zinke became the first Navy SEAL to serve in the Senate. He published his memoirs, American Commander, with the writer behind the best-selling American Sniper. And now he’s Secretary of the Interior.

In short, he’s a walking, talking, book-writing American dream. As red white and blue as a jug of apple moonshine.

But what kind of president would he be? A Republican one. Typical of his kind, Zinke supports the wars in the middle east, hates Obamacare, and fights environmental regulation at every turn. Which is probably why President Trump named him to the office in charge of federal land and natural resources, including America’s national parks.

#9 The Mysterious Mike Young

Darkness falls. The streets are quiet. The wind gently carries a torn newspaper across an empty parking lot. The scene is otherwise motionless.

Suddenly, a roar pierces the silence. Not an a cry from an animal, but one from a machine. A black van speeds down the street and turns sharply into the lot, with two of its wheels hanging in the air. It crashes back down to earth and halts. A man steps out from the driver side door.

Could it be Mike Young?

Well, maybe. For all we know, it is. It’s not like we have any clue who he is or what he looks like. It could very well be Mike Young. Is it? We may never find out.

According to legend, Mike Young is both a businessman and a botanist. He’s a Democrat. Rumours are that he is a high-ranking civil servant in the Agricultural Department. And since President Trump has failed to have his nominee for Agriculture Secretary confirmed, Mike Young is the standing Secretary.

What bizarre sequence of events could lead to such a man becoming president? It’s not even certain that anything could. Since we’ve never gotten this far down the presidential line of succession before, no one’s sure if a person who was not confirmed by the Senate could become president.

But it’s not impossible. Nothing is impossible anymore. Not when the Mysterious Mike Young is pulling the strings.

March 03, 2017

The Rise (and Fall?) of Jeff Sessions

jeff sessions

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) makes opening remarks to a panel of Department of Homeland Security officials. (CBP Photo by Glenn Fawcett)

It was just over one year ago that Jeff Sessions first rose in defense of Donald Trump.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was among the President’s earliest and most stalwart allies. This was a surprisingly bold move for once-Senator, who was not known for being a gambling man. But the risk paid off in spades. Jeff Sessions now sits at the office of the highest law enforcement official in the country.

At 70-years-old, Jeff Sessions is deceptively mild.

He hails for a tiny town north of Mobile, Alabama, tucked away in the Southern hills. He is sweet-mannered and short-statured. He comes off as the proprietor of some wholesome establishment on a straight spot in the road, who gratefully chats up the visitors who stop by on the way to a better place.

How did this southern charm worm its way into the heart of the Trump administration? Despite their superficial differences, President Trump and Senator Sessions have much in common. Jeff Sessions is a debt hawk and military hawk, tough on crime and skeptical of the changing climate. His blood runs redder than his President’s, and has for far longer.

Sessions did not celebrate the anniversary of his pledge with much enthusiasm.

February brought a never-ending storm of controversies month for the fledgling administration, drowning out any potentially positive notes. President Trump typically thrives under heavy rain, but even the man himself is looking weathered these days.

Of course, the Attorney General did not waver in his support. He was glad to defend the wide-scale immigration ban that generated cries of racism and fascism from much of the American public. Jeff Sessions proudly wears the title of amnesty’s worst enemy, which he earned from his long history of fighting nearly every immigration bill that has come before the Senate since the 1990’s. The forces of assimilation, as he calls them, have a fearsome foe in Jefferson Sessions.

But the idea of march brought misfortune for the Attorney General. At first glance, there is nothing wrong with a senator sitting down to talk with the Russian ambassador. But denying that meeting under oath is a grave political sin.

Now, there is a mark on Jeff Sessions.

Whether the Southern gentleman can redeem himself is yet to be seen. Lying to the public is one thing – lying to the president is a whole other beast. We know what happens to loyal allies who are alleged to have betrayed to their President.

His long history with Trumpland should tilt the odds in his favor. But Jefferson Sessions is no gambler.