Shadi Hamid is not a fan of Donald Trump, but …
We are confronted daily not simply with outrage, but a kind of end-of-worldism: America is on the brink of dictatorship; Trump is going start World War III; the president’s access to the nuclear codes might actually destroy the universe; if he manages to control his impulses, then his withdrawal from the Paris climate change accords will still destroy the universe, just a bit more slowly.
As someone who works on the Middle East, I find myself, oddly enough, in a near constant state of relief. Nine months into Trump’s tenure, it could have been better, but it could just as well have been worse, perhaps much worse.
The world hasn’t ended.
Every new day, though, seems to bring new cause for panic. Republican Senator Bob Corker’s biting remark that “the White House has become an adult day care center,” and that “someone obviously missed their shift” was tailor made for liberal fantasies. Vanity Fair correspondent Gabriel Sherman, parrying the thin line dividing news and gossip, reported on the “speculations” of an unnamed former official. According to the official, there was the open question of whether White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis would “tackle” Trump, presumably to prevent him from ordering a nuclear strike.
Before Trump even had a chance to prove just how unfit for office he was, liberals and Democrats were already preemptively tossing around the word “impeachment.” The vigor for the Russia investigation is driven, in part, by the hope that clear evidence of criminal activity will emerge, thereby justifying the introduction of articles of impeachment. Yet despite no smoking gun, 40 percent of Americans – and more worryingly 72 percent of Democrats – say they would support impeachment, according to one recent poll.
If unimpeachable evidence does, in fact, emerge, then fine. Since some are realizing how unlikely this is, the conversation is now moving onto the 25th amendment, with mainstream outletscovering it as a serious possibility. It’s almost as if the goal is to find a reason to get rid of Trump, by any means, or amendment, possible. The very eagerness with which some on the left (and the never-Trump right) are raising such drastic measures is, itself, cause for concern.
A plain reading of 25th amendment makes clear that it doesn’t apply to our current situation. Section 4 allows a majority of cabinet members or Congress to submit a written declaration that “the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” President Trump is able to discharge the powers of the presidency; the problem is how he discharges them, and the fact that many Americans believe (rightly) that he is discharging them rather badly. This is primarily a political, and therefore a subjective, judgment. To state the obvious, Americans, like all citizens of a democracy, have the right to elect bad, even very bad, politicians.
Yet someone as well regarded as legal scholar Eric Posner has made the argument, shared by apparently millions, that Americans should consider new ways, however unprecedented, to remove a president who reaches a certain level of subjective badness. Posner is explicit about this, writing that the president “can be removed, under the conventional understanding of the 25th Amendment, if he is incapacitated by mental or physical illness. But there is no obvious solution for a president who has not committed a crime or been disabled by illness, but has lost the confidence of the public because of a failure of temperament, ideology or ability.”