On Friday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that calls for President Trump to undergo a physical and mental health exam to determine if he is stable enough to remain in office. Under the proposed legislation, Mike Pence and members of the Cabinet would remove Trump from office if when he fails those exams. Rep. Lofgren isn’t the only one who thinks the 25th Amendment might be a good basis for removing 45 from the White House.
POTUS is showing signs of erratic behavior and mental instability that place the country in grave danger. Time to invoke the 25th Amendment.
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) August 16, 2017
I know, guys. At this point, we’re all about getting this clown out of office by any means necessary. Plus, our commander-in-chief is obviously suffering from at least a few things in the DSM-5 (*cough* narcissistic personality disorder *cough*). Here’s the thing, though. In our brain of brains, we all know that the 25th Amendment wasn’t drafted for the purpose of ousting a president who is simply an asshole.
Under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (emphasis mine):
“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”
I’ll admit that there’s a little wiggle room here. The 25th’s language clearly leaves the discretion to whatever “body” Congress may decide to empower to declare a president “unable” to do his job. So that’s kind of loose. And I suppose we could pull a retroactive Hillary Clinton and now declare Donald Trump to be “temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.” Surely, Trump’s inane reaction to the events in Charlottesville is proof per se of that lack of fitness. Still, though, using the Amendment as the mechanism to throw out 45 misses the point in a yuge way.
Donald Trump –and everything from his pathological delusions of grandeur to his utter lack of self-control — has been constant since well before the election of 2016. In essence, he was elected because of his mental problems, not in spite of them. The 25th Amendment isn’t a mysterious loophole in the Constitution; it’s a provision that’s there to use if the president has a stroke, undergoes anesthesia, or dies in office. Its purpose is not to allow a disgruntled electorate to undo an election, no matter how bad its buyer’s remorse may be.
There’s good news, though. We already have a mechanism to expel a rotten president, and it’s called impeachment. Impeachment is inherently and deliberately a political process, with a twist of legal courtroom drama. As I’ve written before, impeachment is the remedy at Congress’ disposal to wield against a president who is executing his duties badly. A choice by Congress to use the 25th Amendment instead of impeachment would be the ultimate “it’s not you,” breakup with Trump. Buffering a rejection of the president under the guise of sudden “inability to serve” would be the jewel in this Congress’ spineless crown – distancing itself from a voluntary choice, and cowardly achieving its Trump-free goals without taking responsibility for doing so. If Congress believes, as it should, that President Trump is an appallingly ineffective leader, it should impeach him on that basis. Alternatively, if Congress believes, as it should, that its job is to represent the interests of constituents who are overwhelmingly disgusted with Trump, that’d work too. But Congress doesn’t get to evade political fallout by offering a doctor’s note.
As Barack Obama said back in October of 2016, current GOP leaders created the Trump problem. “They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years, primarily for political expedience,” President Obama said. Those same irresponsible politicians should not now escape accountability by responding to “sudden” evidence that their hero is flawed.
Anyone who sees Trump for what he is knows that he is very, very far from, “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”; the real problem is that Trump is unquestionably able. He is, in fact, so able that he is inciting Nazi riots and provoking North Korea. He is able to rally millions of disgruntled Americans to become an army of voters who loyally follow him without regard for rationality or logic. The true threat of Donald Trump is that he will continue to be able to hold and discharge power for years to come, while impotent onlookers can do little more than complain about it. I agree with Representatives Lofgren and Speier – this guy is disturbing, erratic, and deeply dangerous. But the threat to our country isn’t that Trump is not able to be president. The threat is that he is.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.