I copied that from the subhead of an op-ed in today's Washington Post. It got my attention because it makes it look like it's about Islamic terrorists, and it probably got yours the same way. It is, sort of. By "decapitation," Norman Ornstein means a strike that would kill many of the key people in the federal government. Consider: Each house of Congress requires half its members to be present in order to open for business. Deceased Congressmen can only be replaced by a special election that usually takes four months. In most states a governor can appoint someone to replace a deceased Senator, but there is no mechanism for replacing members of either house who are alive but incapacitated. Every person in the line of presidential succession is based in Washington. The Supreme Court requires six of its nine justices to function. If four of them are killed in one blow, the President or acting President must nominate a successor to at least one position and the Senate must confirm the nomination. If there is no president and no senate, there will be no Supreme Court. I suppose the terrorists have already thought of this so Ornstein wasn't afraid to put the idea in print: What if a suitcase nuclear bomb goes off near the presidential inauguration ceremony in 2008, 2012, etc? Both the outgoing and incoming president and vice president will be there, with most of Congress and the Supreme Court nearby. Some outgoing Cabinet members will be there too, but they all have packed and are leaving their posts, with no new ones appointed yet. There would be chaos. No president, no quorum to reconstitute Congress or the Supreme Court and therefore no Supreme Court to sort out the conflicting claims of the dozens of people who want to take power and either restore the government or establish a dictatorship. During the Cold War, we would have had 30 to 90 minutes to evacuate top officials from Washington or herd them into deep underground bunkers, before Soviet nuclear missiles destroyed the city. A cold rational analysis says that the threat of a terrorist nuclear attack is very unlikely--but if it does happen it is very likely that we will get no warning at all. It's not hard to put together a contingency plan for reestablishing an interim government. Making temporary appointments to the Senate and the House. Inserting a few figures in the presidential succession who are not ordinarily in Washington. Appointing chief judges of federal appeals courts to a temporary Supreme Court. Setting forth some pretty straightforward rules for replacing temporary appointments with permanent elected officials or their permanent appointees. A commission was formed in 2002, in the wake of 9/11, to put this contingency plan together. But in five years, the executive, legislative and judicial branches have refused to give it any attention. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts apparently spoke for everyone in our government when he said, "I just got here, and you want me to deal with the issue of my demise?" It's well known that many smart people fail to draw up wills, even though they know that it will leave a nightmare for their loved ones. Our government is leaving us with far worse than a nightmare: If it "dies," our Constitution could die with it.