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Friday, January 18, 2019

Nancy Pelosi is Second not Third in Line for the Presidency

My wife Tina called my attention to a funnily annoying meme last night:  commentators on MSNBC keep saying that Nancy Pelosi (as Speaker of the House) is "third in line for the Presidency".  I just heard Stephanie Ruhle and Malcolm Nance say that.

But, actually, the Speaker of the House is second not third in line.  The President is not first in line - he's already there (unfortunately) in the White House.  The first in line to succeed him is the VP.  And the Speaker of House is second in line.

Look at it this way: if you're waiting in line to see a concert, the person who is lucky enough to be first in line is not yet seated or even in the theater.   If the line has been moving, everyone who was first in line who entered the theater is no longer on line.  (They could be online, reading their email or tweeting, but that's something else.)

Ruhle and Nance and everyone who has been getting this wrong could benefit from Bertrand Russell's theory of logical types.  If you're counting all the clothespins in a bag, you don't count the bag, too.   I realized a while ago that even people who pick up the trash understand this.  You empty the garbage pail, but don't take the pail away with the garbage.   The pail itself is not garbage.

Regarding the President, whoever is in that office is not on any line of succession.  That's because the person in that Oval Office has already assumed that office.   It's even incorrect to say that Nancy Pelosi is third in command.   The responsibilities of government don't work that way.   In many ways, the Speaker of the House is far more powerful than the Vice President.

But she does stand behind the Vice President in one very significant regard.  She's second in line to succeed the President, behind the VP who is first in line.


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