Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Unsuited but Not Unable

("The 25th Amendment Solution to Remove Trump")

Is incompetence really the same as incapacity? Does being unprepared, uninformed, uninterested, unthinking, uninspired, unpredictable, unintelligible,  really translate to being unbalanced and unfit?

Donald Trump is a walking, talking neon sign of incompetence, seemingly constitutionally unsuited to get from one moment to the next without the possibility of creating a monumental crisis, but is this really a 25th Amendment disability?

This is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Amendment which permits removal of a President who is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."  Other sections of this Amendment have been invoked on three occasions to permit temporary transfer of power to the Vice President during surgical procedures for the President (involving Reagan once and George H. Bush twice) but this particular provision has not been tested.

It is said that serious contemplation of the utilization of this clause occurred in 1987 when Howard Baker became Reagan's Chief of Staff and concern grew over the President's apparent lack of attention, ineptness and laziness. There was question as to whether Reagan was losing control of his mental faculties (and as we would subsequently learn, he may well have been, given his later battle with dementia). But the determination was then made that there was not sufficient cause to believe that any deterioration of Mr. Reagan's mental state warranted a 25th Amendment challenge. And so, for half a century, the meaning of "unable" in this context has been a matter of mere speculation and conjecture.

"Unable" has been defined as lacking the skill, means or opportunity to do something. Certainly, Mr. Trump has both the means and opportunity to do much (damage) in his current position and there is no impediment in either regard. The question really is whether Mr. Trump's unambiguous lack of requisite skill in performing the tasks required of his office falls within the contemplated penumbra of the intent of the 25th Amendment or whether it is mere folly to suggest that being really really bad at your job is the same as being unable to do it.

In the course of but a few short days we have learned that Mr. Trump has either committed several acts of obstruction of justice regarding James Comey (both as to his firing and also as to his being asked to end his investigation of Michael Flynn) or come within a razor's edge of doing so. He has also blundered his way into revealing intended secrets of the intelligence community,potentially jeopardizing lives in the process. Each week brings new revelations of disastrous missteps by this President.

But, all that being said, Mr. Trump is not Ronald Reagan and he is in full control (well maybe not full) of his faculties (limited as they may be). So, if I were asked to predict whether a Republican controlled Congress will really attempt to invoke the 25th Amendment to unseat the man who presently occupies the Oval Office, I would clearly and unequivocally answer no.

You see giving us fits does not equate to being constitutionally unfit.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Oy vey!


Anonymous said...

To use a phrase heard during the Nixon hearings, Congress will "wait for the smoking gun". It will take the testimony of a President's staff member to verify that the President's intent was to subvert the FBI's investigation. Doubt it.