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University alumnus and U.S. political analyst Norm Ornstein.

University alumnus Norm Ornstein believes planning for a catastrophic terrorist attack could deter one.

Who would govern the country?

From eNews, March 18, 2004

The smoke hadn't cleared from the rubble at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center when University alumnus and U.S. political analyst Norm Ornstein turned his fertile mind to a disastrous series of "what ifs" triggered by the terrorist attacks of September 11. The following is edited from "What If?," a story in Minnesota magazine about Ornstein's efforts to address governing succession in the age of terrorism. What if Flight 93--the fourth hijacked plane--had crashed into the While House or the U.S. Capitol dome, killing or incapacitating hundreds of U.S. senators and representatives? Who would rise--and how--to lead the nation in the chaotic times that would follow? "It's clear that throughout the history of the American republic we've gone through gaps in time when there's been a real lack of governing continuity, and it's often taken a crisis to move us enough to try to fix them," says Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. "Take just one example: Woodrow Wilson ended up comatose for many months at the end of his presidency. We know now from ample documentation that during this period his wife ran the country because there was nothing in the Constitution to deal with presidential incapacitation. We didn't get around to fixing that problem until the 26th amendment was ratified following the Kennedy assassination." Ornstein formed a blue-ribbon commission to look into possible solutions. The Continuity of Government Commission, composed of a "who's who" of American politics, issued its first report in spring 2003, which called for a constitutional amendment delegating to Congress the power to redress the issue of succession. For the complete story by Richard Broderick, as published in the March-April issue of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Alumni Association magazine, see the current issue.

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