What if our President is not only unfit to discharge his duties, but is a grave threat to our future?
I happened to disagree with several important Obama administration policies and I disagree with substantially all those of the Trump administration but, with a crucially important caveat, in a democracy the majority view should win.
The caveat is, we must not greatly harm those who come after us, or those in other parts of the world. An example of what we must not do is making nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula.
Such a war would destroy not only millions of future lives but also millions now.
So, if we consider President Trump likely to do that, we must remove him from office.
Does he in fact seem likely to do that?
President Trump recently announced to the UN that his administration will if necessary “totally destroy” North Korea, he has promised them “fire and fury like the world has never seen“, earlier this week he told reporters we are now in “the calm before the storm”, and he tweeted that his Secretary of State is wasting his time trying to talk with N. Korean leaders.
Now Reuters reports the following tweet by Trump.
“Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid … Hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!”
So, yes, he does seem likely to order a military attack on North Korea. What would be the result?
North Korea would launch missiles carrying nuclear warheads and destroy our base and everyone on Guam. Perhaps also Japan. They would certainly destroy Seoul where ten million South Koreans live.
North Korea aims to deter us from attacking them as we did Iraq and other nations, but if attacked, they must respond and that will result in at least 25 million immediate deaths. How many more depends on how many nuclear weapons North Korea can deploy, and whether we also use them.
What we must face up to is, signalling his intent to attack North Korea means that resident Trump is dangerously unfit to remain in office.
This is not an matter of differing policy ideas or even of how much we value our own lives versus those of our children’s children. This is a matter of survival.
How can Trump be removed from office?? By invoking the 25th Amendment, which was established in 1965.
Such an amendment was needed half a century earlier when the massive stroke President Wilson suffered in 1919 left him unable, and unaware of it, to continue as President. Although his incapacity could not be hidden from those close to him, it was hidden from the public. He remained in office until his second term ended in 1921 so we were in reality without a President for those two years.
President Roosevelt was in declining health from at least 1940 and tests in early 1944 revealed serious problems that forced him to rest for more than two hours a day. Press reports about his heath were quashed so the public was unaware and voted him in for a third term. Although still clear mentally, he died in March 1945, two months into his fourth term of office, after a massive stroke.
President Eisenhower served us better after suffering a heart attack in 1955 and requiring emergency surgery the following year. He established a written agreement for Vice President Nixon to act on his behalf if and when he was unable to do so.
A Constitutional Amendment that would have given Congress the ability to declare a President unable to perform his duties was proposed in 1960. After concerns about possible abuse of that authority were resolved, the 25th Amendment was passed by both Houses in 1965.
Presidents Reagan in 1985 and G.W. Bush in 2002 and 2007 invoked the Amendment when they underwent colonoscopies.
But this situation is different. It would be Congress not President Trump invoking the Amendment. How would that work? The Amendment reads:
“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.”
Presumably President Trump would declare that he suffers no such disability. He could then resume office unless a two-thirds vote of both Houses declared him unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.
We are in new territory. The 25th Amendment was established in case the President becomes incapacitated as Wilson did or others have temporarily. We have never before had to judge the state of a President’s mental capacity.
Because President Trump seems certain to behave in increasingly bizarre ways, it seems inevitable that enough members of Congress will at some point agree he must be replaced.
But what if he orders nuclear war before then?
It’s possible to imagine Secretary of Defense Mattis saying: “Sorry, sir, that would be wrong. I must respectfully refuse to carry out that order”. In that case, Trump would promptly replace him with a sycophant who would go ahead. So…
I am very far from eager for President Pence but the risk and its consequences are too great We must replace President Trump now.