Cheney Drafted Secret Resignation Letter To Be Used In Health Emergency

George Bush and Dick Cheney

Another revelation from former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s new book about his heart troubles reveals that, when he became Vice-President, he drafted a letter resigning the Vice-Presidency in the event that he was physically incapacitated due to another heart attack or some other health condition:

For the entire time Cheney was vice president, he had a secret letter of resignation pending. He wrote this letter because he saw a gap in the U.S. Constitution. If a vice president is alive but incapacitated, there’s nothing in the Constitution that allows for that person’s removal. Worried that he might find himself in that position, he created the unprecedented letter.

Cheney said he gave the letter to his counsel, David Addington, with instruction that it was to be delivered to President George W. Bush if Cheney were to become incapacitated.

In the case of Presidential incapacity, of course, the 25th Amendment provides two separate mechanisms by which a President can be temporarily, or even permanently if need be, removed from office either by his or her own choice, or via a decision by the President’s cabinet. This is was a provision that was largely inspired both by Franklin Rooselvelt’s declining health in the final year of his life and by President Eisenhower, who suffered both a heart attack and a mild stroke during his time in office. There is no similar provision for the Vice-President, no doubt because it was considered to be unnecessary at the time. However, given the increasing role that Vice-Presidents have taken on since the Amendment was passed, and the line of succession issues that an incapacitated Vice-President would raise, it would perhaps be prudent for someone to come up with a similar provision for that office. Cheney’s solution wasn’t perfect, but it was appropriate under the circumstances.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. And the only thing that prompted this particular letter was the fact that the Vice President had a known health issue.

    Obviously we have no idea if Biden, a man with better health, has followed Cheney’s lead and drafted such a letter, but this does illustrate a Constitutional gap that never occurred to me.

  2. Argon says:

    So, Cheney made sure he’d leave Executive authority with Bush if he became incapacitated?

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @John E. Bredehoft: Obviously we have no idea if Biden, a man with better health, has followed Cheney’s lead and drafted such a letter, but this does illustrate a Constitutional gap that never occurred to me.

    To say that Biden has “better health” than Cheney is a very low bar. Biden nearly died from an aneurysm.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    You can’t really talk about Cheney without discussing the Senate Torture Report, currently being kept classified, which is widely reported to completely debunk all of his claims about the efficacy and results of his torture program.
    http://m.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/10/a-cia-lawyer-answers-to-the-senate.html

    The man is a war criminal.
    Everything else about him is secondary.

  5. rodney dill says:

    …This information was in Cheney’s book. His original autobiography ‘In My Time.’

  6. merl says:

    @Argon: he was afraid that Rumsfail would stage a coup.