ALBANY — It’s a role that Gov. Cuomo does not often talk about: “designated survivor.”
Tuesday night, as President Obama delivers his State of the Union address, one of his Cabinet members will be located far away, just in case the unthinkable happens and the Capitol is attacked.
Twice when he was President Clinton’s housing secretary, Cuomo was chosen to be the designated survivor, putting him one national catastrophe away on the night of the big speech from being the last man standing in the executive branch.
Cuomo said it was hard not to ponder all the terrible possibilities when there were trucks, Secret Service personnel, and radio and military equipment all around him.
“For me personally, it was a very sobering experience because it’s posing a truly frightful and unimaginable scenario,” Cuomo recalled in an interview Monday with the Daily News.
Days before the President’s annual address to Congress and the nation, this chief of staff quietly chooses a Cabinet member to serve as the “designated survivor.”
Cuomo was given no reason why he was selected.
The first time he was the designated survivor, Cuomo said he spent the night in New York, dining in a restaurant before watching the President’s speech.
The second time, he spent the evening with his three girls in their Virginia home. His children were too young to understand the atmosphere around them, he said.
Because Cabinet secretaries are in the line of succession, they have already been given a national security briefing, he said.
Those held back from the State of the Union are given an additional abbreviated briefing, Cuomo said.
“The circumstance is, for you to be relevant that night, there had to be a cataclysmic situation,” Cuomo said. “The nation would probably be at war. Otherwise this would all be irrelevant.”
Cuomo, who has had an eye on a possible presidential run of his own in 2016, said he would have preferred to be at the speech rather than carted out of Washington.
“The speech was a big deal for the country, but also for your agency, your department,” he said. “I would rather be there. It was a very important night. It was an exciting night. But you do what you’re told.”