Why did Bush have to sign things over during his operation?

[If this aspect is being discussed, please link thanks]
Doesn’t he get “out of circulation” every day for more than a couple of hours?
Like when he’s sleeping.
Why fuss over those two hours?
And sure, he could go into a coma, but we know that could happen from choking on pretzels. Again, there are century old methods for passing temporary control.

A President can be relatively easily woken from sleep. Anesthetic drugs are another matter entirely. If the Pres is under general anesthesia and a national emergency were to occur, you can’t just yell at him to get out of bed.

When Presidents undergo medical procedures that require anesthesia, they typically sign a letter pursuant to Section 3 of the 25th Amendment indicating that the VP is acting President until such time as the President indicates he is able to go back to work. Thus, if any important, time-sensitive decisions, like whether or not to nuke Moscow, must be made during that time, the VP is legally able to do so.

The White House called it “an overabundance of caution.” A good descriptor.

Since it’s only happened twice (or three times, depending on how one counts Reagan’s letter turning power over to Papa Bush but apparently not specifically referencing Am. 25 s. 3) I’m not sure if we can call it “typical” yet.

If the president dies during sleep, that is bad luck (well, generally speaking) and the resultant mess is thought of as unavoidable. If he dies during surgery, that is a known risk and the resulting mess is thought of as poor planning.

If he died under anesthesia there really wouldn’t be any mess since power would automatically fall to the vice president. It would be more a problem if somehow the president experienced a long term incapacitation because of it (say, a stroke).

I don’t really think that would be much of a mess. The VP can serve the remainder of his term as Acting President under either Section 3 or Section 4 if circumstances require it. An election would ensue as usual, and a new President, possibly the VP himself, would be elected. (Presumably, the incapacitated President would not run. (Although, if it were election season and his name were already on the ballot, his party could direct their Electors to vote for their nomination for VP instead. (Or anyone else they see fit.)))

If a president dies in office, the VP immediately becomes President under section 1 of the 25th Amendment:

No kidding. But that’s not what we were talking about.

I seem to recall that, during the Ford admin, Cheney and Rumsfeld were heavily involved in developing and updating some of the procedures that the WH put in place to ensure continuity of gov’t in case a nuclear attack destroyed part of the executive branch. Supposedly this is part of the reason that the current WH shows such an “overabundance of caution” in such situations.

This is vaguely recalled from an article I read several years ago, but perhaps someone will recall a better source.

If the President suddenly become incapacitated without invoking section 3 and a time-sensitive decision (like an attack) came up before the VP had time to convene a cabinet meeting could he legally be able to act as President? :confused: Can section 4 even be invoked if the office of the VP is vacant?

You responded to obfusciatrist’s statement about the Pres dying under anesthesia by citing sections 3 and 4. That looks to me like you’re talking about the president, um, dying. In which case section 1 applies regardless of whether sections 3 or 4 had previously been invoked. The VP would not serve out the term of a dead President as acting president. He would serve it out as President.

I agree that it wouldn’t be much of a mess just that it would be more of a mess than if the president actually died.

I think you misread the post to which I was replying. The remainder of it discussed what would happen if the President were permanently incapacitated (by a stroke, for example.)

Being deliberately made unconscious is different from going to sleep. Also there could be complications during any operation, so it might last much longer than anticipated.

In the ‘West Wing’, President Bartlet gets an emergency operation for a gunshot, but fails to sign a letter beforehand giving power to the Vice President. The TV series discusses the consequences.
A viewer wrote in to say that the Vice President can ally with senior officials to take over when such a letter has not been signed and quoted section 4 of the 25th amendment:

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

And a ‘President Cheney’ would be a bigger mess than any of it.

I think Mr. Bush is setting a great precedent, because it avoids the type of confusion we experienced after Reagan was shot in 1981. Then vice president George H.W. Bush resisted calls to invoke the 25th amendment for fears that it would be seen as a coup d’etat. But clearly, the 25th amendment was intended precisely to address situations where the president was unexpectedly incapacitated. If you’re not going to use it when the President is fighting for his life on the operating table, then when?

The idea for the amendment was proposed by President Eisenhower, who in a two-year span had a major heart attack, underwent surgery for a life-threatening bowel obstruction, and then suffered a serious stroke.

George W. Bush is the first to explicitly invoke the 25th to temporarily transfer power – although as Otto point out, most scholars agree that Reagan did this despite not explicitly mentioning the 25th amendment. President Clinton did not invoke the amendment when he had knee surgery in 1997. Neither did the elder President Bush when he had what appeared to have been a heart attack in 1991. (This was later diagnosed as atrial fibrillation due to hyperthyroidism, although many have suggested that his sudden attack of the “flu” during a state dinner in Japan had all the appearances of a myocardial infarction.)

anson2995 makes an excellent point (one that I wish I had made first.)

Even if you don’t remember the chaos in the first couple of hours after Reagen was shot, consider this:

My father had a stroke on the operating table while he was undergoing what should have been routine surgery. He had insisted on signing a medical power of attorney over to me. Without it, the hospital would have been stuck trying to figure out whether either me or my sisters had the authority to make both the emergency and long-term decisions that had to be made over the next few days.

I think Bush signing over the ship of state to Cheney during his colonoscopy is a pretty definitive answer as to whether or not the Vice President is part of the Executive Branch.

Yes indeedy.