This evening the President gives his annual State of the Union speech to the nation. Security is at its highest levels during this gathering of our national leadership, and for good reason.
Presidential succession becomes an issue when this many, almost all, of our governmental leadership is gathered in the same room. This occasion would be a terrorist's dream come true, but the chances of anyone getting near the place is rather remote. However, they plan for it anyway.
We all know if the President dies, then the VP becomes President, and he appoints a new VP. But, what happens after that? What if the building is blown up and everyone is killed? Well, not to worry, it's all planned out in advance. Here's the order of succession after the President and VP:
2. Speaker of the House
3. President pro Tempore of the Senate
From the President's cabinet:
4. Secretary of State
7. Attorney General
12. Health and Human Services
18. Homeland Security (Thanks, Mr. Right.)
But, again, what if they're all killed, you say? On nights when everyone is in the same gathering, such as this evening, one of the cabinet members is selected, on a rotating basis, and is required to stay far away from the gathering site. This is called the "doomsday" provision. And, if the unthinkable did occur, that cabinet member would be the President. After that, I have no idea how the government reforms.
If it ever does happen, please let Rumsfeld be the odd man out. Read more about the process and its history here.
NOTE: I knew this would happen. Someone asked, "What if everyone is killed and the lone cabinet member dies of a heart attack?" Answer: Al Gore becomes President, because by then it just won't matter anymore.