If McCain dies too soon, she can always resign

Among the many reactions to the Sarah Palin nomination I’ve read so far, one of the most interesting from a storytelling perspective is this piece by Noah Millman [via Andrew Sullivan].

Millman argues that while Palin is “totally unqualified to be President at this point in time,” that doesn’t matter. McCain will probably live long enough for her to get the on-the-job training she needs to become qualified. And if, God forbid, McCain should die before she’s ready, she can always “appoint someone who is more ready to be President to be her Vice President, on the understanding that she would then resign and be appointed Vice President by her successor.”

Millman’s logic here reminds me of Debt of Honor, the 1994 Tom Clancy novel in which Clancy, having contrived to get his protagonist Jack Ryan appointed as a replacement VP, then has a disgruntled JAL pilot fly a 747 into the Capitol building, killing the President and much of the Congress. Ryan assumes the presidency, an office he could never have been elected to, and turns out to be exactly the leader the country needs.

As fiction this is pretty neat stuff. As a real-life scenario for presidential succession, it’s got some problems.

Of course Millman is naive to assume that Palin, having been thrust “prematurely” into the presidency, would even consider resigning. If she did decide to resign, I think she’d have to keep that a secret from Nancy Pelosi and Robert Byrd—nos. 2 and 3 in the line of succession—until after she appointed a new VP. Having resigned, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to reappoint her as Vice President, since she’d have proven herself unfit for the most important responsibility of that office.

But the biggest problem of all is simply this: even if everything happened exactly according to Millman’s plan, we’d end up with a President none of us had voted for. How’s that supposed to be a good thing?

The above did raise another question for me, though. What if John McCain dies, not in 2012, or in February, 2009, but in October, 2008? Does Palin automatically become the Republican Presidential candidate, or does the GOP have to reconvene in a panic to pick a whole new ticket? What if he dies so close to the election there’s no time to pick someone else?

3 thoughts on “If McCain dies too soon, she can always resign”

  1. In gubernatorial elections where the candidate died, the candidate for lieutenant governor that got elected immediately became governor instead. My guess is that same practice would apply, but I don’t think there’s any law covering it. The Electoral College can really vote for anyone they want to.

  2. Well, this theory has an obvious flaw in it: Palin has already been thrust into a position she’s not ready for, and it did not occur to her to refuse.

    That would seem to lower the probability of her refusing to step into the Presidency.

  3. In some states, it’s actually already too late to substitute a new ticket. In fact, according to at least one crankjob I’ve read recently, it’s actually too late for both Obama and McCain to get on the ballot in Texas, according to the letter of the law.

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