Birch Bayh's account of the 25th amendment offers two valuable civics lessons: 1. The shortcomings of existing presidential succession law. 2. How a bill becomes a law, or in this case, a Constitutional amendment.
The nation's presidential succession laws still have plenty of shortcomings, but Senator Birch Bayh helped solve many of them when he shepherded the 25th amendment to passage.
The amendment acknowledged modern threats by ensuring a mechanism exists to avoid having a disabled president as commander-in-chief, as existed under Woodrow Wilson and James Garfield. It also lessens the chance that the presidential succession statute ever being needed.
The current 1947 law provides for the Speaker of the House, Senate President Pro Tempore, and Cabinet members to succeed to the presidency if there is a dual vacancy (no president or vice president). The 25th amendment's vice presidential succession provisions, twice used already, make that unlikely to occur.
The book also tells a lot about how a bill becomes a law. Although not perfect, there was a great degree of deliberation, bipartisanship, and progress associated with this amendment that seems missing from Washington today. It was not all sunshine and roses. Birch Bayh's testimony before a House committee will bring knowing sighs by anyone who has seen that body attempt to legislate. But overall, there was thought, compromise, and ultimate success. Nowadays, it seems like problems are not solved until there are crises. Thankfully, the issues Bayh tackled were not crises when they were solved. One reason the view may be so nice is the complete lack of any lobbyist interest in the issue. The only interested outside party was the American Bar Association, and their input was constructive and not self serving.
This book is called Birch Bayh United States Senator One Heartbeat Away....