While the rejected Muslim travel ban rattles around the judicial system, and a humiliated president considers his options, something bigger lurks deep in the background.
That something is the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It provides that when “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.”
One could argue that in his brief time in office, Donald J. Trump has already demonstrated that he is incompetent and unfit to discharge those powers and duties. But the law uses the word “unable.”
If he were found to have a serious mental illness, would that render him “unable” to continue in office? The amendment puts that decision in the hands of “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.” In Trumpistan, those are themselves some pretty wifty people.
There have been public expressions of concern about the new president’s symptoms of narcissism, megalomania and even sociopathy — the utter absence of any feelings of guilt.
Symptoms of mental illness need not be blatant, obvious even to laymen, for experts in psychiatric medicine to diagnose serious mental illness in an individual. Many such experts would look at certain aspects of the president’s behavior — the seemingly compulsive late-night tweeting, for example — and say that such behavior on its face could be symptomatic of mental illness.
Bizarre as the man’s behavior has been, Vice-President Pence, the members of the cabinet who have been confirmed or are likely to be confirmed soon, and the senior Republicans in Congress would not, of course, at this point give the slightest consideration to using the 25th Amendment.
But the president’s critics are another matter. What would they do if he were to go really bonkers?
When he built his golf course in Scotland, a farmer who owns adjoining land refused to sell it to Trump’s organization. Trump launched tirades against the farmer comparable in nastiness to what he’s been saying as president about judges and anyone else who doesn’t give him his way in his chaotic efforts at government.
With each escalation of the rhetoric in Scotland, the farmer responded with some new annoyance to Trump: signs on the border between the two properties that infuriated him; piles of unsightly trash within plain view of the tees; that sort of thing. The farmer’s friends in the pubs and cobblestoned village streets hooted and howled and called the outsider nasty names. Trump went more berserk.
The presidential campaign put the hostilities in Scotland on hold.