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Monday, September 12, 2016

What Happens When Presidents Get Sick

When Woodrow Wilson had a massive stroke that paralyzed the left side of  his body and was unable to talk and restricted to bed there was no clear path for Vice President Marshall to take over the presidency. So Woodrow Wilson's wife Edith Wilson took over the White House and never let it go until Wilsons term was up. When James Garfield and was shot in the back and lingered for three months the vice president didnt take over either. The White House was run by Secretary Brown unofficially with others helping out. So why is it so hard for a President to leave when he or she gets sick?

For one thing the Constitution does not define what being "unable to fulfill the duites of President" means. There is no clear cut tripwire that says the Vice President has to take over. In Woodrow Wilsons case and with James Garfield both men had Vice Presidents who didn't wnat the presidency. When Marhsall came to the White House Edith Wilson turned him away annd let him know that they would send for him if they need him. They never did and Marshall was relieved. Same with Garfield, his Vice President dreaded the idea of taking over the White House.

Both Wilson and Garifeld lived at a time when the press was kept at arms lenght. People didn't see Woodrow Wilson for five months and Garfield dissapeared from view for the three months before he died with few getting access to the Commander in Chielf. Today we live in a world where a Presidential  candidte stumbles and we know it. Still, Ronald Reagen managed to keep from the world he had dementia. One thing is for sure, no one can disspaear for months at a time anymore and Edith Wilson would have a hard time today assuming the role of President today. Still, we could see Bill Clinton stepping in for Hillary and like Edith... he might never leave.

Order from Barnes and Noble

Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson

Books by William Hazelgrove