Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Presidential Succession and Designated Survivors

The Presidential line of succession tells us who ascends to the Presidency in the event of a vacancy in the Oval Office. And in this, we once again find Birther claims refuted.

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was the daughter of an Italian immigrant mother. Current Senate President Pro Tempore Daniel Inouye is the son of a Japanese immigrant father. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is the son of Italian immigrants. Attorney General Eric Holder's father is from Barbados. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was abandoned at birth in Pennsylvania; his biological parents' identities are unknown. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is the daughter of Nicaraguan and Mexican immigrants. And Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was born in the Territory of Hawaii in 1942.

That's just Obama's Cabinet. All of them appear as legitimate successors under the law, unlike the Taiwan-born Elaine Chao or the Czech-born Madeline Albright. Their parents' citizenship is irrelevant, and indeed is often not publicly stated, because it is irrelevant.

There is also the tradition of the Designated Survivor, a Cabinet member who remains at a distance during public meetings of the nation's top leaders, such as at the State of the Union address. Only Cabinet members who are eligible for the Presidency can be named as designated survivors.

And yet, Eric Holder was the designated survivor in 2009. More significantly, in 1996, the designated survivor was HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants.

But most significantly, the person selected in 2000 to sit out the State of the Union address, the person who the White House specifically selected to take over the Presidency if Congress was nuked, was Energy Secretary and future Presidential contender Bill Richardson. Bill Richardson, whose mother María Luisa López-Collada Márquez was a Mexican citizen when he was born in 1947 and remains a Mexican citizen today. But Richardson was born in California, and that makes him a natural born citizen, like it or not.

And that's not all. In 2003, President Bush had two designated survivors. One of those two was Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, the son of Japenese immigrants. Not only were Mineta's parents not U.S. citizens when he was born in 1931, but under the Asian Exclusion Act, they were not even allowed to become U.S. citizens. But Mineta, like Richardson, was himself born in California. And that was sufficient for the Bush Administration to choose him as a Constitutionally eligible designated survivor.

Yes, even the custom and practice of the Executive Branch itself, in the specific context of preserving and protecting the Office of the Presidency, contradicts the Birthers' claims.


  1. Loren,

    There's nothing wrong with having immigrant parents. As long as they are US citizens BEFORE
    the birth of their offspring, their offspring will be natural born Citizens.

    ex animo

  2. It seems you are wrong, davidfarrar .
    Read the new Congressional Research Service report:
    "Qualifications for President and the “Natural Born” Citizenship Eligibility Requirement"


    You should learn this well- this is going to be used to knock down your bogus and lie-filled court challenges.