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Only 18 are in line for top job

In the line of presidential succession, who would follow the secretary of Homeland Security?

— J.L., by e-mail

We're a little chagrined to admit, J.L., that we couldn't tell you the name of the current secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security until we hooked up with our old friend Google. But we're not smarter than a fifth-grader, either.

(For others stuck at our grade level, it's former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. And according to dhs.gov, she's done everything in her power to protect the country but personally search every hole in Afghanistan or Pakistan for Osama bin Laden.)

Even a fifth-grader knows that if for some reason the president can no longer serve — he dies, he resigns, he's removed from office, he no longer has the ability or he doesn't qualify — the vice president takes over.

After that, it's the speaker of the House, then the president pro tempore of the Senate, then a long list of mucky-mucks that includes every cabinet member down to the secretary of Homeland Security, providing all of the above for some reason can't take on the job of our country's highest office.

In the U.S. Code, the list ends there. No more successors.

We can only hope that if there's a catastrophic event of such a magnitude that all 18 in line for succession die at the same White House party, then members of Congress who weren't invited would gather together and start electing some leaders.

A plot best left in "2012" director Roland Emmerich's hands, we would think.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.