Ross Douthat, one of the New York Times‘ “conservative” columnists, has published an op-ed calling for the Cabinet to remove President Donald Trump from office under the 25th Amendment on the grounds of mental incapacity.
The title of the column is “The 25th Amendment Solution to Remove Trump.” Douthat acknowledges that Trump has not committed any “high crimes and misdemeanors” that might lead to impeachment. But he has another plan.
Building on an earlier Times column by fellow in-house “conservative” David Brooks, Douthat calls Trump a “child” unfit for the office: “A child cannot be president. I love my children; they cannot have the nuclear codes.”
Douthat’s proposal is not new. It has been a staple among the so-called “Resistance” since the early days of the Trump presidency. Democrats, unable to accept their loss in November, have been casting about for a way to depose the president. Section 4 of the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, they believe, provides an answer:
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.
There is one problem: proving that the president is “unable” to carry out his duties. Douthat attempts to fill the void with conjecture: “I do not believe that our president sufficiently understands the nature of the office that he holds,” he says. He cites the slew of recent controversies, such as the firing of James Comey and its aftermath, and claims that Trump’s senior appointees “regard their mission as equivalent to being stewards for a syphilitic emperor.”
Douthat’s argument boils down to the fact that he does not like Trump, and has never liked him — partly, one suspects, because Trump swept up the very “Sam’s Club” Republicans that Douthat had long urged the GOP to attract, but did it in the vernacular of populism and nationalism, not through Douthat’s high-minded prescriptions.
The weakness of Douthat’s argument gives the game away, twice. First, it highlights the fact that so much of the media hysteria about Trump, Russia, and Comey has not been about the facts or the law, but has simply been an effort to portray the president as mentally unstable and revive the absurd 25th Amendment gambit.
Thus, for example, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) reacted to the allegation that Trump divulged classified information to the Russians by declaring: “I believe that the president is desperate for attention and needs psychological help.”
Second, Douthat indicts himself by the very criteria that he uses to judge Trump’s mental incapacity.
It is a child who throws a tantrum when he cannot have everything his way. It is a child who cannot accept losing and insists that the rules be suspended on his behalf. It is a child who demands that the adults rearrange the world to his liking.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.