Donald Trump and the 25th Amendment

| June 5, 2017 | 1 Comment

George Mitrovich

As I write this column the president is in the Middle East, with visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and his Holiness in Rome ahead.

So far it seems like a normal presidential trip, with Trump reading from speeches prepared for him, and has refrained from Tweeting.

Is there a new Trump?


He is who he is as you and me are who we are.

If the purpose of his first trip abroad was to divert attention from his serious problems at home – the firing of James Comey, the Russian investigation, attempts to get the nations’ top national security heads to dismiss that investigation – remain fixed.

Only the suicide bombing in England and the deaths and injuries caused, has temporarily diverted media attention.

I wrote last month that I am “Trumped out.” That hasn’t changed, and won’t, as my efforts to escape the reality of his presidency are unavailing.

But as I have pointed out here in this space, Donald Trump’s harshest critics haven’t been liberals but conservatives – George Will, Kathleen Parker, David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, Jeff Jacoby, and Michael Gerson, especially Gerson, whose critiques have been devastating.

To that list I add Russ Douthat of The New York Times.

He recently wrote the only plausible way to get rid of Trump is not by impeachment but the 25th Amendment.

Douthat wrote:

“It was just three days and a lifetime ago that I wrote a column about Donald Trump’s unfitness for the presidency that affected a world-weary tone. Nothing about this White House’s chaos was surprising given the style of Trump’s campaign, I argued. None of the breaking scandals necessarily suggested high crimes as opposed to simple omni-incompetence. And given that Republicans made their peace with Trump’s unfitness many months ago, it seemed pointless to expect their leaders to move against him unless something far, far worse came out.”

He then added:

“If the G.O.P.’s surrender to candidate Trump made exhortations about Republican politicians’ duty to their country seem like so much pointless verbiage, now President Trump has managed to make exhortation seem unavoidable again.

“He has done so, if several days’ worth of entirely credible leaks and revelations are to be believed, by demonstrating in a particularly egregious fashion why the question of ‘fitness’ matters in the first place.

“The presidency is not just another office. It has become, for good reasons and bad ones, a seat of semi-monarchical political power, a fixed place on which unimaginable pressures are daily brought to bear, and the final stopping point for decisions that can lead very swiftly to life or death for people the world over.

“One does not need to be a Marvel superhero or Nietzschean Übermensch to rise to this responsibility. But one needs some basic attributes: a reasonable level of intellectual curiosity, a certain seriousness of purpose, a basic level of managerial competence, a decent attention span, a functional moral compass, a measure of restraint and self-control. And if a president is deficient in one or more of them, you can be sure it will be exposed…

“Trump is seemingly deficient in them all. Some he perhaps never had, others have presumably atrophied with age. He certainly has political talent — charisma, a raw cunning, an instinct for the jugular, a form of the common touch, a certain creativity that normal politicians lack. He would not have been elected without these qualities. But they are not enough, they cannot fill the void where other, very normal human gifts should be.

“There is, as my colleague David Brooks has written, a basic childishness to the man who now occupies the presidency. That is the simplest way of understanding what has come tumbling into light…The presidency now has kinglike qualities, and we have a child upon the throne.”

“A child cannot be president. I love my children; they cannot have the nuclear codes.

“But a child also cannot really commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” in any usual meaning of the term. There will be more talk of impeachment now, more talk of a special prosecutor for the Russia business; well and good. But ultimately I do not believe that our president sufficiently understands the nature of the office that he holds, the nature of the legal constraints that are supposed to bind him, perhaps even the nature of normal human interactions, to be guilty of obstruction of justice in the Nixonian or even Clintonian sense of the phrase. I do not believe he is really capable of the behind-the-scenes conspiring that the darker Russia theories envision. And it is hard to betray an oath of office whose obligations you evince no sign of really understanding or respecting.

“Which is not an argument for allowing him to occupy that office. It is an argument, instead, for using a constitutional mechanism more appropriate to this strange situation than impeachment: the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows for the removal of the president if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet informs the Congress that he is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’

“But his incapacity to really govern, to truly execute the serious duties that fall to him to carry out, is nevertheless testified to daily — not by his enemies or external critics, but by precisely the men and women whom the Constitution asks to stand in judgment on him, the men and women who serve around him in the White House and the cabinet.

“Read the things that these people, members of his inner circle, his personally selected appointees, say daily through anonymous quotations to the press. (And I assure you they say worse off the record.) They have no respect for him, indeed they seem to palpitate with contempt for him, and to regard their mission as equivalent to being stewards for a syphilitic emperor.

It is not squishy New York Times conservatives who regard the president as a child, an intellectual void, a hopeless case, a threat to national security; it is people who are self-selected loyalists, who supported him in the campaign, who daily go to work for him. And all this, in the fourth month of his administration.”


George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He may be reached at,

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