It’s time to Break It Down!
The State of the Union Address…that moment each year, but especially during non-General Election years, when the President of the United States addresses the entire nation in Prime Time. Following last night’s address, President Obama’s penultimate, Republicans offered a rebuttal. Then, Cable News networks and a plethora of print and digital media parsed the speech and enthusiastically told us where and why the President failed or succeeded in setting a tone and laying a course FORWARD! Therefore, I’ll skip the opportunity to pile on what the “experts” have already told you.
That is not what this brief post is about. Rather, it centers on an obscure, but time-honored tradition (dating back to the Cold War years), of identifying a State of the Union Designated Survivor (SOTUDS). This year, that individual is Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
I was both interested and intrigued by President Obama’s selection this year because Secretary Foxx is a North Carolina native, a Charlottean, and former Mayor of North Carolina’s Queen City. To be sure, there is no circumstance imaginable under which we hope Mr. Foxx, or anyone else in this position would be required to ascend to and assume the responsibilities of the Presidency. Consider it a prudent, if not necessary precaution. But should the unthinkable have occurred and the Capitol and all in it have been destroyed in some kind of disastrous attack, Secretary Foxx would assume the reins of authority of the most powerful nation on earth.
You may not know it, but the SOTUDS is accorded many of the protections and protocols of the President…for one night. Those amenities included full Secret Service Protection, and a military aide carrying a briefcase with the codes to launch nuclear weapons. The position has often been held by a Cabinet Member, and must be someone Constitutionally eligible to become President. This caveat means some Administration officials, e.g., Sally Jewell, the British-born Secretary of the Interior, are not permitted to hold the position.
While it’s admittedly a cool gig, with little likelihood of turning into an immediate new long term job opportunity, complete with almost unfathomable responsibilities for the position’s occupant, it does come with what many of the highest Federal officials might consider a prime perk; the chance to engage in the pomp and circumstance of the State of the Union.
As a side bar note, it is frequently reported that a number of members of Congress spend hours, some arriving at the Capitol Building as early as 8 or 9 a.m. on the morning of the President’s address, just to get preferential aisle seats. Of course, members of the Administration would not likely take such extreme action. The point, however, is for many in political Washington, the President’s Cabinet included; the State of the Union Address is a proverbial hot ticket item. One which Secretary Fox missed it.
On the off chance the unpredictable, unimaginable, indefensible should have happened last night, Secretary Foxx would have instantaneously transformed from being the man behind many men and women to “the man!” Not surprisingly, it did not happen. So fear not citizens; no Independence Day (the movie), no foreign invasion, and no natural disaster exploding, or otherwise destroying our beloved and majestic Capitol last night. Alas, Secretary Foxx will have to wait his turn and perhaps actually run for the nation’s highest office, in order to become the first North Carolinian since Andrew Johnson, and the second African American to occupy the White House.
Now, I return you to your regular programming, which may include a cornucopia of talking heads extolling, decrying, or simply parsing the President’s comments. Weigh them for yourself; judge them according to your own standards and measures. Have at it. Meanwhile, my shout of the day goes to “State of the Union: Designated Survivor”…Secretary Anthony Foxx!
I’m done; holla back!
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