After US special forces assassinated the head of the Islamic State, the reaction among American political officials, especially the president, and also journalists, was shocking. No one questioned illegality of the killing despite executive order 12,333, which specifically prohibits political assassinations by employees of the United States government. Journalist stupidly and openly asked the question of whether the group would now come to an end as a result. Overall, the reaction was shockingly callous and lawless.
Never mind the policies. For the purpose of this discussion—a discussion our country desperately needs to have—politics are an annoying, distracting rabbit hole.
Donald Trump should be removed from office under the 25th Amendment.
The reason Trump should be de-presidented has nothing to do with his legislative actions or foreign policy initiatives. Unlike George W. Bush in 2000 (and arguably in 2004), Trump won fairly. Unlike Barack Obama, he has kept his promises. His presidency is legitimate.
It has nothing to with his alleged ethical and legal breaches. Impeachment is the proper instrument for charging and possibly removing a sitting president.
The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1965 following the Kennedy assassination. It provides a mechanism for replacing a president who has become incapacitated physically—or, as seems to be the case for Trump, mentally.
“Section 4 stipulates that when the vice president and a majority of a body of Congress declare in writing to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House that the president is unable to perform the duties of the office, the vice president immediately becomes acting president,” according to the History channel. Currently then, Mike Pence and a majority (currently Republican) either of the House or the Senate would write to Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Nancy Pelosi of California will probably replace Ryan after the new Congress is sworn in January.
The VP and a majority of Trump’s 24 cabinet members could begin the process instead of Congress. “It would only take 14 people to depose the president” in that scenario, according to Business Insider.
Trump could appeal. “The president can then submit a written declaration to the contrary and resume presidential powers and duties—unless the vice president and a majority body of Congress [i.e. both houses] declare in writing within four days that the president cannot perform his duties, in which case Congress will vote on the issue.”
High-ranking officials inside the Trump Administration have been so concerned about the president’s fitness to serve that they thought about invoking the 25th Amendment just two weeks after Trump’s inauguration. After the president fired FBI director James Comey, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein went to Comey’s then-acting replacement Andy McCabe, whom he told he thought “that he might be able to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security and now the White House chief of staff, to mount an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment,” according to The New York Times.” Rosenstein floated the idea of wearing a wire to catch audio of Trump talking crazy.
An anonymous Times op-ed by a Trump official claimed that several cabinet members had considered invoking the 25th Amendment.
Trump has called himself “a very stable genius.” Genius? This is a native-born American who attended college, who said his mom “gestated” her Thanksgiving turkey. But stable?
Trump’s manic blizzard of strangeness on Thanksgiving 2018 made the case for the 25th Amendment better than anything I’ve read in an inside-Trump tell-all book.
Asked what he was most thankful for, he said himself: “I made a tremendous difference in our country.”
Trump’s CIA had just issued a report concluding that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. “I hate the crime, I hate the coverup,” Trump told reporters. “I will tell you this: The crown prince hates it more than I do, and they have vehemently denied it.” Why would the prince hate his own crime?
Bizarrely, Trump blamed “the world” for the killing. “Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a very, very vicious place,” Trump said insanely. For the record, “the world” did not kill Khashoggi. Bin Salman did.
Later he discussed one of his favorite topics, The Wall with Mexico.
“We took an old, broken wall and we wrapped it with barb wire plus,” Trump said. “I guess you could really call it barb wire plus. This is the ultimate. And nobody’s getting through these walls. And we’re going to make sure they’re the right people because that’s what you and your family want and all of your families. That’s what they want. And that’s why we’re all fighting. You know, we’re fighting for borders. We’re fighting for our country. If we don’t have borders, we don’t have a country. So we’re doing very well on the southern border. We’re very tough. We get a lot of bad court decisions from the Ninth Circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side. We always lose, and then you lose again and again, and then you hopefully win at the Supreme Court, which we’ve done. But it’s a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect your border. It’s a disgrace. So we’re winning. And you’re winning. And I appreciate very much.”
Psychiatrists have openly speculated that Trump is mentally ill or suffers from at least one serious personality disorder, typically severe narcissism. One even calls him a sadist, “the essence of evil.”
I am a cartoonist and columnist, not a psychologist. I don’t know what exactly is wrong with Trump. Former presidential aide Omarosa Manigault Newman thinks he is succumbing to dementia; it’s certainly possible. Trump is 72. His father developed Alzheimer’s, which points to an increased chance for the president.
It’s probably several things.
What I know is that Trump is not mentally fit enough to serve as president. I think those closest to him know it too. The vice president, his aides and advisors, his cabinet members, members of Congress—they all know that this behavior does not fall within the normal range for a 72-year-old man and that it puts the nation and the world at risk.
It is grossly irresponsible to allow a crazy person to sit in the Oval Office.
“In a time like this of unusual crisis, one has to count on leaders in the executive branch and Congress to really be patriots, not partisans,” Joel Goldstein, a constitutional expert at St. Louis University, told a symposium where the 25th Amendment was discussed.
Republican leaders should act soon. Trump’s mental deterioration, so evident now, will only become worse by the height of the 2020 reelection campaign. If Trump is removed now, Pence will have more than a year to earn the voters’ trust and make his case for four more years.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Unlike many of my colleagues, I knew Trump would probably win. Based on the president’s congenital laziness and short attention span that I documented in my biography, I also predicted that his administration would be characterized by a lack of focus or follow-through. I did pretty well by my readers.
But there’s one thing I never saw coming.
I didn’t know he was a far-right extremist.
Who would have ever thought that a president would defend Nazis and Klansmen — repeatedly, even after catching hell for doing so? That, to appease “very fine” Nazis and Klansmen, a president wouldn’t bother to phone the family of a high-profile political murder victim? (Trump waited four days to call — and first did so during her funeral.) That a president of the United States would elevate the leaders of the defeated, treasonous Confederacy to the level of America’s Founding Fathers?
As CNN’s Anderson Cooper observed after Trump’s now-infamous news conference, “A few hours ago, the President of the United States revealed to us so clearly who he really is.”
Who is he? At best, an enabler and apologist for fascists.
At worst, a fascist himself. Though, to be fair, comparing Trump to fascists is unfair to fascists. Fascists got things done. Infrastructure, for example.
There were plenty of signs of Trump’s fascist tendencies. He promised to bring back torture; on August 17th he approvingly recounted an incredibly (i.e., literally untrue) racist story that U.S. occupation troops executed Muslim Filipino patriots with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. He repeatedly encouraged violence against peaceful liberal protesters at his rallies; he was still at it last month, when he “joked” that cops ought to bash suspects’ heads into the side of their squad cars. He wants to refill the infamous concentration camp at Guantánamo.
During the campaign there were also indications that Trump might be a reasonable man. Gay Republicans assured us his White House would respect pro-LGBTQA rights. During the campaign, Trump said Caitlyn Jenner should feel free to use the Trump Tower bathroom of her choice. Strange to think about now, but this is the same guy who endorsed single-payer healthcare, called for a tax increase on the wealthy, promised to lay off Planned Parenthood, and came out for amnesty for illegal immigrants (albeit after deporting them, then letting them back in…to help out the airlines, maybe?).
Candidate Trump was satisfyingly all over the place.
President Trump has been terrifyingly consistent.
Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush hired Democrats to top posts. Not Trump. His cabinet and top staff is staffed by rabid right-wing lily white ideologues; it features more generals than an old-school junta. Trump’s first major policy initiatives — repealing Obamacare with no replacement and tax cuts for the rich — have tilted so far right that he can’t even secure the support of the usual sellout Vichy Democrats, or right-wing Republicans.
Even by the standards of a country whose citizens — even the “liberal” ones — believe they have the right to invade and bomb any country they feel like without justification, Trump’s presser and ensuing tweets were truly special.
“Mainstream” Republicans like Mitch McConnell may have the soul of a Nazi. But actual Nazism — the uniforms, the flags, the crazy rune shields — Americans don’t do that stuff. Actual Nazism is for a few thousand pasty tatt-covered muscleheads with little pig eyes. They are freaks. They are few.
Yet they have a friend in this president.
Let’s be clear: there isn’t much ideological daylight between “mainstream” Republicanism and little-pig-eyed Nazism. Nazism is militarily expansionist; so is U.S. foreign policy (which, to be fair, is equally supported by Democrats). Nazism centers around a dynamic cult of the Leader; Republicans rally around their president no matter what outlandish crap gets vomited out by his mouth. Nazism relies on scapegoating and harkens to a mythic past when the nation was united by a common cause and everyone (everyone who matters) was happier and more prosperous — c.f. “Make America Great Again” and Republicans’ baseless claims that illegal immigrants are criminals and rapists.
So Trump’s defense of Nazis and Klansmen isn’t a radical departure from the GOP political norm. Where he’s gone off the rails by American standards is a question of style.
Trump’s manner — as Senator Bob Corker aptly describes it, his lack of “steadiness” and “competence” — is why he almost certainly will not complete his term.
Racism isn’t the issue — Republicanism is racist. It’s a matter of decorum.
Trump is too tacky and high-strung and unpredictable for the business class. America’s ruling elites like their racism served up quietly in a well-tailored suit, under a tight helmet of elder-statesman hair, delivered calmly and slowly, so bland that no one pays attention.
This is where Mike Pence comes in.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)