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President Trump is an amazing political phenomenon, abhorrent to many in the US and abroad. How he can be forced from office is surely number one on wish-lists around the world.
Amongst the recent additions to his own personal canon of the unprecedented, unbelievable and downright unconscionable is the claim that he is a “stable genius” in response to strong comments that he was neither. The original suggestions, aided by this piece of self-analysis/self- aggrandisement have boosted calls for the “25th Amendment” to be invoked.
But what is this, and what would happen if it did indeed bring down the curtain on the reign of President Trump?
The clue is in the self-styled descriptions of groups like the Political Action Committee ( “an association of mental health professionals advocating Trump be removed under the 25th Amendment as psychologically unfit”) and others who have coined the twitter handles and hashtags surrounding this.
The 25th amendment to the US constitution (one of only 27 in nearly 230 years) was adopted, officially, in February 1967. In Section 4 says that;
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.
In other words, if Congress says Donald’s not up to the job, he’s got to go.
This new form of words, brought to an end nearly 200 years of ambiguity rooted in the original article 2, section 1, clause 6 of the constitution which failed to set out who had the power to declare a President “incapacitated” and how you go about filling a Vice-Presidential vacancy mid-term.
So let’s scroll forward, perhaps until November when congressional elections are due. That may lead to a pro-25th majority in the legislature. It may persuade the incumbent that he’s had enough. Or there may well be some further catastrophe in-between whiles (including but not limited to the Mueller investigation finishing what Michael Woolf’s book has started).
Before we break out the bunting and breathe a huge sigh of relief, it’s worth considering the current Vice-President, Michael “Mike’ Pence.
Anti abortion, anti LGBT, very close indeed to some very right wing very rich donors, happy to be historically identified as part of the Tea Party set, big on tax cuts, big on contradicting his own policies if they disagree with the President’s. Has enacted so-called anti-union “right to work” legislation when governor of Indiana, loves coal and hates the Environmental Protection Agency. Believes evolution is just a theory. Describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” “Pence leans so far to the right that he has occasionally echoed civil liberties arguments against government overreach’’ notes Jane Meyer in a detailed political expose.
But Pence is also an insider. An experienced politician at state and national level. Someone who navigates the swamp, not drains it – who works the machine, not dismantles it. “Democrats should hope Trump stays in office, because he makes a better foil, and because Pence might work more effectively with Congress and be more successful at advancing the far right’s agenda” Meyer reports leading Democrat Harold Ickes as saying.
So if your reasoning is that President Pence would be less likely to trigger nuclear war over North Korea, you may be right. But the collateral damage along the way could be grievous indeed. Watch this space.