The 25th amendment has gone from a “forgotten amendment” to the U.S. Constitution to a media-wide term. The previously obscure amendment, passed in 1965 after the national shock of the JFK assassination, clarifies the line of presidential succession.
The relevant passage in the 25th amendment that has been making the media rounds is the following:
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.
The subsequent passage states what comes next: Congress decides the issue over whether or not the elected President is able to carry out the duties of his office.
What has changed? Donald Trump got elected.
The left-leaning media publication Vox interviewed one of the authors of the 25th amendment, Jay Berman, to find out if it could be used to remove Donald Trump from the presidency.
“I’ll ask you straightforwardly,” Vox’s Sean Illing said.” Do you think the 25th Amendment should be invoked to remove Donald Trump from office?”
Berman’s answer is certainly surprising:
At this moment, I don’t think he meets the test of a president who’s incapable of fulfilling his responsibilities. I think he was elected to do these dumb things. He hasn’t become dumber or meaner since he was elected — this is who he’s always been. This was who he was when he ran, and may well have been the reason people elected him.
The problem is that we have a ridiculous electoral system and a bizarre set of circumstances that conspired to make this situation possible. But I can’t honestly say that the 25th Amendment is the answer right now.
Then Berman gives us some perspective about his own political views:
The answer right now is impeachment.
The interview unwinds from there, digressing into the “tragicomedy” of the Trump presidency. Berman ultimately touts the popular vote as the way to solve the “issue,” essentially ignoring the dangers of democracy addressed in The Federalist Papers (such as the rise of demagogues and the dominance of urban areas).
“I think we ought to be talking more about how horrible our electoral system is, a system that commits the person with less votes to beat the candidate with more votes,” Berman said. “This is the fundamental issue which people have neglected to think about in the rush to the 25th Amendment. None of this would have happened if we had a direct popular election, but we don’t do it that way, and now we’re trying to fit the 25th Amendment into this unique set of circumstances.”
It’s instructive to note that a radical who helped draft the 25th amendment doesn’t even believe that President Trump should be removed from office, no matter how horrible he personally feels that he is.
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