There’s been a lot of talk around many towns about the “I” word. Can/should/will the president be impeached? The impeachment process as it should be is complicated. Just take the words “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Nobody really knows what that means. Treason is a lot less complicated, but no one in their right mind without a mountain of crystal clear evidence wants to go around saying the duly elected President of the United States of America has committed treason.
Articles of impeachment are submitted to the House of Representatives by simple majority of the House’s Judiciary Committee. In the full House a majority vote in the affirmative impeaches the president–but he remains in office. Then the Senate of the United States acting as a jury with a justice of the Supreme Court acting as judge reviews the House’s conclusions. If they sustain them by a 2/3 vote then the president is removed from office. The vice president assumes the office and can appoint himself another vice president.
We know that because of the “T” words–The Twenty-fifth amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The idea was former President Eisenhower’s after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. There were plenty of historical reasons why the country needed modern shiny succession rules. When President Harrison keeled over in office they were great and grave doubts about what his vice president John Tyler had become President or Acting President? The chief justice swore him in as president to put a lid on the fire and ice but…
Then President Garfield gets himself shot but does not has the good sense just to die. He lingered for weeks, even rallying for a time. His vice president Chester A. Arthur would not sign any appointments or laws. The hands on the clock of the presidency stopped. When Garfield rallied, Cleveland left the White House for his home in New York leaving the symbol of the presidency, The White House, the People’s House, empty. Garfield finally made it easy when he patriotically decided to die.
So we come to the “T” words. They are being whispered in dark, recessed corners of Congress, at the cocktail parties of the rich and famous at country clubs (where the donors hang out), and on golf courses where smaller numbers of donors gather, except undoubtedly at Trump golf properties. The Twenty-fifth amendment seems simple. If the President is incapable of acting the vice-president takes over. Actually, the president hands off the office by signing a paper.
Ahhhh, but there’s more. What if the president seems to go “kookoo bonkers” and is acting erratic and unstable? Well, then the vice president and a majority of the “executive officers” can submit papers to the heads of the House and Senate attesting to the issue and a recommendation that the president be put out to pasture until such time as he is ruled competent or kept out to pasture if he is not.
Not quite so simple. First, the executive officers are deemed to be the cabinet holders of department positions. But there are people of cabinet status who are “ministers without portfolio.” Do they get a say? What if the president says he’s OK but the Veep and whomever it is decided are the cabinet officers disagree? Then they have four days to protest to the leaders of the House and Senate who then inform the Congress that it has 21 days to decide the matter by a vote of 2/3 in each chamber.
Piece of cake. Not really.
The word heard least but with most hope is the “R” word. Maybe this president will get so frustrated and angry he’ll resign. “Who needs this? My hair is falling out. I’m gaining too much weight. And everyone who meets me, except at my wonderful rallies, looks like they wished they had a carving knife in their hands.”
We can harken back to Truman who was asked as he left office how he thought Eisenhower would fare. He said to the effect that Ike was used to being a General. When he told someone to do something they actually did it. “Ain’t necessarily so” as president. “Poor Ike,” Truman was reputed to muse. Well, so it was in the comfort of Trump Tower and at the Trump companies. ‘might be very appealing to be the general again.
Not gonna happen. Right now the presidency is the president’s best protection from the law. Even though it appears that there’s a pile-up of cases that are in jurisdictions beyond the reach of a federal presidential pardon, were he to retire he could be likened to the Christian being sent out to face the lions with little but lawyers to protect him.
Then too, Politco, in an article whose headline proclaims that the “T” words don’t apply to Trump raises some interesting points. Basically, the Twenty-fifth amendment was designed to protect the presidency from the shocks of outside, uncontrollable influences. It is not designed to protect us from ourselves. Remember the primary debates where it seemed a circus car would roll up to the venue and out of it would come endless numbers of candidates? The President’s performances, his utterances, the things he said before and after debates and on the campaign trail, issues of his libido and even his manners had people singing the song of “unpresidential.” Remember also when the President said he’d be more presidential once he was president? Well, that hasn’t happened and brings us to Politico’s main point.
America voted into office the same guy who is now president. He hasn’t changed and that makes removing him for erratic behavior very difficult to prove because he was equally erratic before he was president. Thus no change has taken place that the solons can point to, or we for that matter. In street parlance, we got what we paid for.
The writer’s of the piece come to this conclusion. There is a final way to rid ourselves of President Chaos. They say it is messy, expensive, and time-consuming. Ultimately, though, it is the most stable and stabilizing tool at hand. It is doing the same thing we did when we voted him into office. This time the arrow pointing “To The White House” is turned around and now says, “This way out.”
I think they are right–at least from my perspective.
In this piece, Bill Gralnick displays why he doesn’t write for academic publications. It’s no fun.
More of Bill’s acerbic writing and a bunch of other writing that is more empathetic,, can be found in this space every Sunday or on his website: http//:www.atleastfrommyperspective.net.
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