Tuesday night, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar drew the short straw so to speak, and watched the State of the Union speech from the White House.
The tradition of having a cabinet member or other high-ranking government official miss the speech goes back nearly 50 years. It is done as a protection against the unthinkable so that someone will be instantly in charge of the government if required.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will serve as the Obama administration’s “designated survivor” this evening, the White House has announced.
With most of the federal government’s senior leadership slated to sit in one room together during the State of the Union address, presidents routinely select at least one Cabinet secretary to skip the big speech to ensure a smooth transfer of power in the event of a catastrophic event.
The tradition dates back at least to the 1960s and the White House first publicly released the names of designated absentees during the Nixon administration, according to the Senate Historical Office.
Salazar is not the first Coloradan to have the honor. Interior Secretary Gale Norton did the deed in 2002, and Transportation Secretary Federico Pena did it in 1995.