Saturday, December 16, 2006

What if terrorists destroy Washington? - Los Angeles Times

David Seaton's News Links
Americans love to frighten themselves, anything will serve for this purpose: cholesterol, spinach, name it. This enjoyment of being worried sick about anything and everything is a famous, American national trait; like French women eating all they want and staying thin. So there is a tendency to discount American hysteria. But, in the case presented in the article quoted below, its author, Yale professor, Bruce Ackerman, is really on to something. Wiping out the US political class at one blow would be so devastating, would so surely lead to a military coup d'etat, that if Osama doesn't ever try it than HE is just another American neurosis. DS
Abstract: The news media, politicians and observers are scrambling to speculate on how Sen. Tim Johnson's (D-S.D.) medical emergency might change the composition of the Senate. But if the health of just 1% of one-half of one of the federal government's three branches can cause this much concern, what might happen in a real emergency? Specifically, imagine how the United States would react — or not — if terrorists succeeded in destroying Washington and, with it, all or most of the government. Chillingly, the Senate, which generated so much speculation this week, is actually in a better position to resume functioning than the other branches.(...) This isn't true of the House or the presidency. Under present House rules enacted in 2005, a tiny number of survivors could exercise power for months, even if they were formerly from the minority party. Moreover, their newly elected speaker could succeed to the presidency if an attack took both the president and vice president. Worse yet, the constitutional status of the speaker-turned-president would be problematic. The Constitution says a majority of each house "shall constitute a quorum to do business." It is a fair question whether the existing House rules, granting a rump the power to legislate after a terrorist attack, conform to this requirement. Under ordinary circumstances, we'd leave a question like that to the courts, but what if the Supreme Court were also swept away? Under existing law, the president has the power to give justices recess appointments that expire at the end of the congressional session. The acting president could well be in a position to pack the very court that would judge his or her own status. READ IT ALL

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