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Former US attorney general dishes on time as designated survivor under Bush

Alberto Gonzales, who served as attorney general in President George W. Bush’s administration, was on a plane as the “designated survivor” for the 2007 State of the Union address, a unique experience he discussed Thursday with NewsNation.

Gonzales said he was approached by Bush’s chief of staff about a week before the speech about being the designated survivor for the government in case of a catastrophic attack on the Capitol.

He said he was given two options “in terms of what I could do that evening” and he chose the option to be in a plane during the address because “it would be kind of cool to fly around … as the president gave the State of the Union.”

When he arrived at Maryland’s Andrews Air Force Base, Gonzales said there were individuals from “every major department and agency” that had “big binders of protocols and procedures to advise me in the event that I became president.”

Gonzales said he was briefed on a number of things and he “settled in” on the plane to watch Bush give his address “where I suddenly realized” that if something were to happen at the Capitol, he would be president.

“It is a sobering thought, quite frankly,” he said.

He said that there was no “special training” for being a designated survivor, saying he assumed it was “in the binders.”

He added that he thinks the president chooses a designated survivor who has a good understanding of what is going on in the world and the country.

Gonzales said he was “honored to do it.”

The tradition of naming a designated survivor began in the 1950s as a Cold War-era policy designed to keep the government from being dismantled completely if something were to happen, since the vice president, Cabinet members and both chambers of Congress are in attendance for the address.

President Biden chose Labor Secretary Marty Walsh as the 2023 designated survivor; Walsh as Labor secretary is the 11th in the presidential line of succession.

This year’s survivor has yet to be announced, but Gonzales recommended that whoever is chosen, should “try to enjoy it.”

The Hill and NewsNation are both owned by Nexstar Media Group.

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