By Robert Reich
In retrospect, what’s most disturbing about “Sharpiegate” isn’t Donald Trump’s clumsy effort to doctor a National Weather Service map or even his brazen move to get the same agency to lie on his behalf. It’s how utterly petty his motive was.
We’ve had presidents try to cover up a sexual liaison with an intern and a botched burglary, but never have we had one who went to such lengths to cover up an inaccurate weather forecast. Alabama being hit by a hurricane? Friends, this is not rational behavior.
Trump also canceled a meeting with the Taliban at Camp David. The meeting was to have been secret. It was scheduled for the week of the anniversary of 9/11. He cancelled it by tweet.
Does any of this strike you as even remotely rational?
Before that, Trump canceled a state visit to Denmark because Denmark wouldn’t sell Greenland to the U.S. Hello? Greenland wasn’t for sale. The U.S. no longer buys populated countries. The state visit had been planned for months.
He has repeatedly told senior officials to explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes hitting the U.S. He believes video games cause mass shootings. He blames light bulbs for his orange hue.
Trump thinks climate change is no big deal. He says trade wars are “good and easy to win.” He insists it’s Chinese rather than U.S. consumers who pay his tariffs. He “orders” American firms to stop doing business in China.
He calls the chairman of the Federal Reserve an “enemy.” He retweets a comedian’s sick suggestion that the Clintons were responsible for the suicide of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
I think we have to face the truth that no one seems to want to admit. This is no longer a case of excessive narcissism or grandiosity. We’re not simply dealing with an unusually large ego.
The president of the United States is seriously, frighteningly, dangerously unstable. And he’s getting worse by the day.
Such a person in the Oval Office can do serious damage.
What to do? We can vote him out of office in 14 months’ time. But he could end the world in seven and a half seconds.
There’s also the question of whether he’ll willingly leave.
Can you imagine the lengths he will go to win? Will he get Russia to do more dirty work? Instruct the Justice Department to arrest his opponent? Issue an executive order banning anyone not born in the U.S. from voting? Start another war?
By the time the courts order him to cease whatever unconstitutional effort he’s making to remain in office, the election may be over. Or he’ll just ignore the courts.
It’s almost too late for an impeachment. Besides, no president has ever been sent packing. Richard Nixon resigned because he saw it coming. Trump would sooner start a civil war.
Also, being unstable is not an impeachable offense.
Two Republicans who have announced primary challenges to Trump have suggested another possibility: the 25th Amendment.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld recently tweeted that Trump is “a clear and present danger” to the U.S., adding the hashtag “#25thAmendment.” Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh says the amendment should be “looked at.”
Last February, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe said officials in the Department of Justice had discussed using the 25th.
Ratified in 1967, the 25th Amendment allows the vice president to become “acting president” when “the vice president and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or such other body as Congress may by law” declare a president incapacitated.
The only attribute Vice President Mike Pence has displayed so far is sycophancy. The most recent illustration: overr-nighting at Trump’s golf resort in Ireland. But with rumors flying that Trump might exchange Pence for another lapdog, who knows? Maybe Pence will discover some cojones.
Another problem: the 25th Amendment doesn’t define who “principal officers” are, and the Constitution never mentions the word “Cabinet.” If Trump thought a revolt was brewing, he’d fire everyone instantly.
I wouldn’t completely rule out the use of the 25th Amendment, but the only thing that’s going to get Pence and a majority of Trump’s lieutenants to pull the plug before Trump pulls it on them may be so horrific that the damage done to America and the world would be way beyond anything we’ve experienced to date.
Which is to say, be careful what you wish for.
Pray that we make it through the next 14 months. Then, do everything in your power to remove this man from office.