Editorial: The 25th amendment is not the way out of the Trump presidency

Americans have put up with a lot from President Donald Trump. Many of the things he has done or said would have amounted to a major controversy with any other figure of such immense political influence, but with a new controversy popping up every few days, it’s impossible to treat each one with due significance.

The Bucknellian wonders, like so many others have for the past year, what – if anything – will eventually be enough to cause Trump’s demise? What kind of evidence is sufficient to prove that he is unfit to serve as president of the United States?

An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week explored the idea that perhaps Trump has finally done enough damage, and that he poses a “clear and present danger” to the country in his attempts to invalidate the Russia investigation.

The author presents a solution to this problem, that has been the subject of debate since Trump was elected: Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. The amendment allows the Vice President, with the support of a majority of the Cabinet, to declare the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

But, like much of the U.S. Constitution, the amendment is left largely ambiguous. What constitutes a president being “unable” to serve? Mental illness? Physical ailment? What most scholars and pundits have agreed upon is that the amendment was originally intended to be used in the most dire circumstances; in the event of a stroke, or an assassination attempt that renders the president incapacitated, for example. In fact, it was originally drafted in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, when the government realized the necessity of a back-up plan in case Kennedy did survive but was handicapped to some extent.

Trump’s first year in office has seen no such event. No head injury or sudden illness has befallen him; he is in the same state as he was when we elected him. But the 25th Amendment includes no language outlining what to do when we elect a president who is already unfit to serve at the time of election. Perhaps some of those who voted for the President failed to recognize the severity of the consequences, and wish to reverse their decisions. Should the 25th Amendment allow us to do so?

Unfortunately, the election of the president is not so easily taken back. The invocation of the 25th amendment would be fraught with political consequences, including the trivialization of constitutional law. To manipulate the language of the constitution, and to use it improperly through fabricated loopholes is a measure that could be expected to come from the President himself.

It would also set a dangerous precedent. Would the 25th Amendment be invoked every time a president said something illogical or made an unpopular decision? Certainly this could not have been the intention of its authors.

It is for these reasons that The Bucknellian is not advocating for the 25th Amendment to be invoked. This does not mean we are content with Trump remaining in office. But, let’s refrain from stooping to our current president’s level by interpreting the constitution in a way that favors our political agenda, and finding loopholes where none may exist.

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