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Houston Law Review



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Twenty-Fifth Amendment, President Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Akhil Reed Amar, presidential inability


Life has taught those of us who have lived as long as I have that the seemingly impossible can happen and that we must be prepared to deal with the unimaginable on a moment's notice. In October 1963, I wrote an article for the Fordham Law Review in which I contemplated the need for such preparations should the unimaginable indeed strike: "The problem of presidential inability has now been generally forgotten by our national legislators as well as by the public. Since we have a young, able and healthy President, all indications are that the issue will remain dormant until another inability crisis confronts the country. Yet it is imperative that Congress act now." A month later, that "young, able and healthy President" was assassinated. For a period of time after President John F. Kennedy's death, many wondered aloud how we would have dealt with his inability had he lived. His death gave impetus to the drive to change the Constitution with the adoption of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Today, Professor Akhil Amar ranks among the nation's leading authorities in dramatizing gaps and defects in our succession and electoral systems and in offering thoughtful, if not provocative, solutions. His lecture, a compendium of his thinking in these areas, makes an invaluable contribution deserving of the attention of our national legislators. In responding to his views, I draw on my own writings in the 1960s and the work of the 1966- 1967 American Bar Association Commission on Electoral College Reform, for which I was privileged to serve as its reporter.