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The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Wed. May 28, 2003

Alternate History: What If?

Alternate History: What If? – From the Atlantic: “What would have happened if United Flight 93, brought down in the fields of southwestern Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, had departed Newark on time? [...] Rather than roaring to earth near the town of Shanksville, Flight 93 would have continued south to Washington, where the terrorists, it is now believed, intended to guide their stolen missile into the dome of the Capitol.”

“In considering the potential carnage, Ornstein says, it occurred to him, ’Wait a minute – what does that mean for a quorum?’ The Constitution dictates that House members may be replaced only through special elections, which take months to organize. ’So at the worst possible time,’ he says, ’there’s no Congress’ – which means no one with the authority to declare war, appropriate money, or make laws. ’What you’re doing is condoning for what would be a sizable period of time a form of martial law. And when people say, ’Well, what’s so bad about that?’ I say, ’Two words: John Ashcroft.’’”

Well, we dodged that potential bullet in September of 2001, but that doesn’t solve the underlying problem, nor diminish the continuing risk: “’As you think about the history of al Qaeda, they go after a target and if they don’t get it, they’ll come back in a couple of years.’ Ornstein’s mission is to prod lawmakers into writing, in effect, a collective will that would prepare the federal government to handle mass casualties within its ranks.”

But there’s a basic human problem with that. No powerful person wants to consider their sudden and untimely demise, or prepare for such a thing. The best we get is “half measures” that seek to insure that Congress can be relocated in a time of crisis, should Washington be attacked.

That’s what they consider the “worst case scenario”; they’ll have to move. They can’t even contemplate the idea that they may not be around to relocate, so they surely aren’t preparing for it. As I’ve said before, “until you can insure there will be a quorum in the House after some theoretical attempt at leadership decapitation, where you meet is almost a moot point.”


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