Who would become President if Bush were to die right now?

Would Dick Cheney take over until Obama is sworn in in January, or would Obama take office a little early?


Bush is still the president. It simply goes in the order of succession just like it always would. It would be Cheney as noted. Obama doesn’t have a presidential role in the least until the electoral college votes and, even then, he still has to wait his turn until he is sworn in.

Cheney is Bush’s successor and will remain so until Obama and Biden are sworn into their offices.

Just of of curiosity, I am assuming the Vice President becomes President the second the president is dead right? It’s not when he takes the oath is it?

Like Johnson was legally President as soon as Kennedy was pronounced dead right?

Or am I mistaken?

This is why George isn’t taking any hunting trips with Dick this fall.

LBJ was sworn in very quickly but it wasn’t an instant process. IIRC, they had find the right people to do the swearing in as fast as possible and transition responsibilities. I am almost certain that, after the swearing in, his plane changed to the call-sign Air-Force One but other Dopers have said that wasn’t true yet I have never seen anything to refute it. It took a few hours to swear LBJ officially as POTUS.


I hope you’re not trying to work out plans to get Obama in early… :dubious:

It wasn’t until 1967 when the 25rh Amendment cleared up the question of succession completely.

No mention of swearing in or any other intermediate step. The VP shall become President.

However, from a practical standpoint, Johnson became President as soon as Kennedy was pronounced dead, per the original Language of Article 2, section 1.

Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 p.m., Dallas time. Johnson was sworn in at 2:38 p.m., Dallas time. Johnson returned to Washington on the same plane Kennedy had arrived in, the plane in which Kennedy’s body was returned to Washington. There was no “switching” of the call sign – it was the same aircraft throughout.

My understanding is that immediately upon the death of the President, the Vice-President becomes President (25th Amendment) but cannot perform the duties until sworn in (Article II, Section 1).

At least, no official presidential role, but then, much of what a president does isn’t official anyway. For instance, he’s already advising the Democrats in congress how to vote on certain issues, and even though his advice doesn’t hold any more official weight than any other senator’s, most of them are listening to him.

Nitpick: his advice doesn’t hold any more official weight than anyone else’s at all, since he is no longer a member of the US Senate. He resigned effective Monday the 17th. Quite possibly Biden will also resign before Jan. 3rd so his replacement will be slightly senior to Shaheen, Warner, Begich, T. Udall, M. Udall, Hagan, Merkley, and possibly Franken and/or Martin, although he’s said he will resign only when he is sworn in, for whatever reason. You’d think he’d want to give his replacement time to learn the ropes, although possibly this is happening anyway.
Why yes, I do like reeling off the list of newly elected Dems in the Senate.

On a related question, the 20th Amendement (enacted in 1933) specifies that the Presidential and Vice Presidential term of office ends on the January 20 following the election. It also created a procedure for filling a vacancy in the Vice Presidency - prior to that, the vacancy was left unfilled.

So what would have happened if the Vice President elect had died between the electoral college vote and the inauguration? There was no procedure to replace him. And if he was dead, he couldn’t be sworn into office. With nobody being sworn in to replace him and no official end date for his term of office, would the previous Vice President’s term of office have ended? It seems to me he could claim that he was still Vice President under the new President.

No, there were a few cases prior to the current system where the VP was out of office, either removed, resigned, or promoted due to the death of a President, where the position was simply not filled. So there would be no Vice President until the next election.

One of the things many people don’t realize is that the primacy of the Vice Presidency (after the President) is a relatively recent thing. For the first 100 years or more of the nation both the Secretary of State and the Secretary of War were positions considered FAR more important and prestigious than the Vice Presidency. So having the position unfilled wasn’t considered a true burden or vulnerability of the government.

Supposedly, a new Delaware governor will be sworn in at the same time Biden becomes VP. The speculation is that Biden was able to get this new incoming governor to appoint a placeholder in Biden’s place, so that his son (who is currently deployed in Iraq) will have a chance to run for an open seat next election.

That can’t be right. I’m too lazy to do the textual analysis right now, but my understanding is that the powers of the president immediately transfer to the VP as Acting President. The country cannot be without an effective head of state or commander-in-chief, especially since the death of a president is likely itself a crisis requiring the attention of the president.

I’m skeptical of this claim for the simple reason that the current governor (Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat) could have just appointed Beau Biden to the seat as an initial matter, giving him the incumbency at the next election. I don’t say Beau won’t run when the seat comes open, just that they didn’t need the kind of engineering you suggest to put Beau in the seat.


Note that, despite tradition, the President can take the oath of office in his bathrobe in front of an Elvis impersonator on a copy of Playboy. This is why LBJ was sworn in by “nearest respectable judicial figure” on “nearest available Holy Book” rather than needing to wait for the more formal process.

“Air Force One” is the designation of any plane the President happens to be on. If you take him for a ride in a glider that is Air Force One (I think…not sure if it has to have actual Air Force pilots to gain the designation). The designation follows the President…not the plane.

The question is, I suppose, was Johnson actually President when he boarded the plane or only President upon being sworn in on the plane? If the latter then the plane took off as Air Force Two with the VP and landed as Air Force One with the President aboard. If Johnson was technically President when he boarded the plane then it was Air Force One all along.

ETA: Looks like Johnson was sworn in on the ground (albeit in the plane). So when it took off it was Air Force One by definition.

If it’s a civilian aircraft, the callsign is “Executive One.” It is very rarely used since the president almost never flies on civilian aircraft.

Of course, most gliders probably don’t have radios, making it a moot point. :slight_smile:

Beau Biden is currently deployed in Iraq. If he was appointed to the Senate he’d need to come home early and that could look bad politcally.
As for callsigns it depends on what military branch operates the aircraft; Air Force = Air Force One (duh), Army = Army One (old presidential helicopters), Navy = Navy One (Bush’s carrier stunt), Marine One (modern presidential helicopters), Coast Guard One (none so far), and a civilian craft = Executive One (Nixon took a commercial charter once).