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.
- Vice President Mike Pence
- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan
- President of the Senate Orrin Hatch
Today, we’ll look at the next three contenders to the throne, including the first non-republican on the list.
Though they aren’t all red-blooded Republicans, this trio has something in common – see if you can guess what it is. Hint: their boss shares this trait as well.
4. Rex Tillerson
Like something out of a dystopian leftist’s nightmare, oil baron Rex Tillerson comes in as the fourth in line for the presidential office.
While Rex Tillerson is a newcomer to the world of presidential politics, he is no stranger to authority. The Texas oilman started his career at ExxonMobil in 1975 and climbed the ranks to CEO in 2006. Today, he sits at #24 on the Forbes list of most powerful people – and that’s before President Trump offered him the seat of Secretary of State.
Unlike his predecessors, the eminent John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, Rex Tillerson comes to the office with no public sector experience. But if recent history has shown anything, it’s that a dearth of political practice is no barrier to entry in the Oval Office.
5. Steven Mnuchin
Like the Secretary of State, Steve Mnuchin comes to the White House straight off Wall Street. A 27-year veteran of Goldman Sachs, Mnuchin now serves as the Trump administration’s Treasury Secretary.
His appointment was met a controversy so furious that it rivalled Tillerson’s. To start, Mnuchin is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of $500 million. His association with Goldman Sachs is poisonous among democrats and the centre-right alike. As if that weren’t enough, Mnuchin also served at the helm of the beleaguered bank IndyMac at the height of the financial crisis.
It should be noted, however, the Mr. Mnuchin’s appointment is far from the most contentious on our list – but that comes further down the line.
6. James Mattis
Remember when I said these three contenders have something in common? By now, you’re probably thinking wealth. And it’s true that the oilman, the banker, and the dealmaker himself share this trait.
But James Mattis is not a rich man. Nor is he a politician, which is about the only thing that makes him akin to President Trump.
Tillerson and Mnuchin are cut from the same gold-fringed cloth as the man who appointed them, but Mattis is a military man. Some call him Mad Dog – others see him as more of a Warrior Monk. The former marine lead the battle for Fallujah in Iraq and oversaw the war in Afghanistan.
That’s not all that sets Mad Dog apart from the two men ahead in line. Unlike Mnuchin and Tillerson, Mad Dog’s confirmation was almost entirely free from controversy. The Senate gladly confirmed him with a vote of 98 to 1.
For years, it was a given that the president of the United States would have at least some military experience. Even George Bush Junior spent some time in the National Guard. President Obama defied that narrative, and President Trump laid it to rest. For some, President Mattis would be a welcome return to form.
Next time, we’ll look at three more links in the presidential chain, including the first and only Democrat in line for the throne.
What happens if the president dies?
Most of us are somewhat familiar with the United States presidential line of succession. We know the Vice President becomes president if the incumbent dies, resigns, or is removed from office. After all, we’ve all seen it transpire in books, movies, and television shows. And many of us are old enough to have seen the tragedy unfold firsthand.
But what if the Vice President meets the same terrible fate?
The presidential throne cannot sit empty for long. The passing of the torch from POTUS to VP is only step one in the presidential line of succession – there are many more links on the chain, spanning all across the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Of course, at the time of writing, the incumbent president is the grand negotiator himself, Donald J. Trump. Next in line is his vice president, the stark and silver Mike Pence. Staunchly conservative and faithfully Christian, Pence would bring a terrifying piety to the Oval Office not seen since the days of born-again Bush Jr.
Who comes next? Well, that’s when it gets interesting.
Following the presidential line of succession, the burden of the office passes to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Today, that person is Paul Ryan. This is fascinating, given that Ryan is no great fan of Trump or his administration.
Once a contender for the office of VP himself, Ryan is a popular face in his party. But his cold, reluctant acceptance of Trump has never approached anything resembling support. It’s hard to imagine how this Potential President would handle the reins of an administration he can hardly stand to look at.
Next in line is Orrin Hatch, the President pro tempore of the Senate. His unlikely ascension would be a worthy capstone to his career as the longest-serving Republican Senator in history. Hatch would be the first Mormon to serve the office of President, earning a title that once seemed destined for Mitt Romney.
Next time, we’ll creep further down the presidential line of succession and look at the next two republicans (and one independent) who could one day stand at the head of the union.