THE LAW: 170-Year-Old Riddle

When the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787 began to hammer out the language of Article II, Section I, Clause 6 (specifying conditions under which the Vice President assumes the presidency), Delaware's Delegate John Dickinson raised a troublous question. Asked Dickinson: What is meant by the term disability, and who is to be the judge of it? Dickinson got no answer. Last week, 170 years and 33 Presidents later, there was still no answer.

Responsible for the failure to act is Congress. In the absence of legislation, Cabinets that have faced the problem have foundered on a secondary question: Should the...

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