President and Mrs. Bush met last week with Vice President Dan Quayle and his wife, Marilyn, to discuss the terms of the transfer of presidential power if Bush should become disabled, a White House spokesman confirmed Friday.
Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater called it a routine meeting where letters were signed by Bush and Quayle. Fitzwater said the meeting in the Oval Office was held "to discuss the 25th Amendment" dealing with presidential disability and the "implementation of the statute . . . how it works . . . the paperwork."However, the Washington Post said Friday the meeting was to discuss the circumstances under which Quayle would become acting president should Bush be unable to conduct official business. It said that the two couples decided that the amendment would be invoked in certain circumstances and not in others.
The terms of the agreement have not been made public, nor was the meeting on the public schedule. Fitzwater said the meeting on April 18, included White House physician Burton Lee II and White House counsel C. Boyden Gray and chief of staff John Sununu.
The meeting was intentionally private to avoid a reminder of the Democratic charges during last year's presidential campaign that Quayle lacked the experience to succeed Bush as president if it should become necessary, the Post said.
A source told the newspaper Quayle remained quiet during most of the discussion. Bush, Barbara Bush and Marilyn Quayle questioned White House staff members at the meeting.
When Reagan had a colon cancer operation in July 1985 he transferred power in a personal letter to Bush for a period of eight hours while he was under an anesthesia. In that procedure they bypassed implementation of the amendment, which allows the vice president to assume power when the president sends a written declaration to congressional leaders that he is unable to discharge the duties of his office.
Under a later amendment the vice president also may become acting president when he and a majority of the Cabinet declare the president is disabled.