George W. Bush: Temporary Transfer of Power During Colonoscopy


colonic polyps
 
Two benign colonic polyps were removed in 1998 and 1999, while Bush was governor of Texas 1.

Bush underwent follow-up colonoscopy on June 29, 2002, at Camp David. He denied signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer, but underwent the procedure to be "super-cautious" about his health 1. The results of the examination were reported to be normal. Supposedly, another of the reasons Bush underwent the procedure was "to underscore its importance for people over 50 who are at risk" 2.

Before the 20-minute procedure, Bush invoked section 3 of the 25th Amendment, temporarily transferring Presidential powers to Vice President Cheney SEE BELOW -- the first time an official transfer of power had been made under that provision of the Constitution. Bush commented: "I'm the first president to have done so (transferred power) under this type of procedure and/or physical examination. I did so because we're at war" 2.
Comment: It is often written that Ronald Reagan used section 3 of the 25th Amendment to transfer power to his Vice President on July 13, 1985 before undergoing surgery for colon cancer. However, Reagan did not explicitly invoke the 25th Amendement 3a.

Details of the procedure were released MORE. Bush will likely undergo repeat colonoscopy in 5 years 2.


Odds & Ends  
If you have ever wondered whether a signed document transmitted over a fax machine is legally binding, consider the fact that in connection with his colonoscopy Bush transferred Presidential power to Vice President Cheney, and later resumed power, by faxing signed documents to Congress 1! (Note: This is not legal advice!) This opens some interesting scenarios SEE BELOW.

More...
With the following letter to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate 4 (and to the Speaker of the House), Bush transferred power to the Vice President:
June 29, 2002

Dear Mr. President:

As my staff has previously communicated to you, I will undergo this morning a routine medical procedure requiring sedation. In view of present circumstances, I have determined to transfer temporarily my Constitutional powers and duties to the Vice President during the brief period of the procedure and recovery.

Accordingly, in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, this letter shall constitute my written declaration that I am unable to discharge the Constitutional powers and duties of the office of President of the United States. Pursuant to Section 3, the Vice President shall discharge those powers and duties as Acting President until I transmit to you a written declaration that I am able to resume the discharge of those powers and duties.

Sincerely,

GEORGE W. BUSH

With the following letter to the Speaker of the House 5 (and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate), Bush reasserted power:
June 29, 2002

Dear Mr. Speaker:

In accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, this letter shall constitute my written declaration that I am presently able to resume the discharge of the Constitutional powers and duties of the office of President of the United States. With the transmittal of this letter, I am resuming those powers and duties effective immediately.

Sincerely,

GEORGE W. BUSH

Interestingly, these letters were faxed, not hand-delivered, to their recipients 1. This opens an interesting scenario: what if the faxes had sat in the machine, unread? June 29, 2002 was a Saturday. Maybe no one was working on Capitol Hill that day. If a fax is sent and no one reads it, is it like a tree falling in the woods with no one to hear it?

Also note that I have preserved the exact punctuation of the White House web page. It's beyond me why the President's staff feels it necessary to SHOUT HIS NAME all in capitals.

Cited Sources
  1. Wilson, Patricia (Reuters). Bush to be sedated for colon check Saturday. Yahoo!. 28 June 2002, 7:50 PM ET.
  2. Knutson, Lawrence L.. Bush resumes office following colon test. Washington Post. June 29, 2002.
        

    Comment: Accessed from www.washingtonpost.com

  3. Abrams, Herbert L. "The President Has Been Shot": Confusion, Disability, and the 25th Amendment in the Aftermath of the Attempted Assassination of Ronald Reagan. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992.
        
    a  pp.199-201

    Comment: Rigorous and enormously thought provoking. Abrams tells not only the story of the shooting itself, but, more importantly, the maneuvering to disguise Reagan's slow recovery afterwards and forestall any consideration of transferring power to the Vice President.

  4. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020629-4.html
        

    Comment: Original URL: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020629-4.html · Also see: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Presidential_Letters_on_Transfer_and_Return_of_United_States_Constitutional_Powers_(29_June_2002)

  5. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020629-3.html
        

    Comment: Original URL: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020629-3.html · Also see: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Presidential_Letters_on_Transfer_and_Return_of_United_States_Constitutional_Powers_(29_June_2002)


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