Wednesday, April 05, 2017

April 5, 2017--25th Amendment

Monday on Morning Joe, Joe and Mika reviewed the storm of tweets that poured forth on Saturday and Sunday from Donald Trump.

They were clearly dismayed.

Usually, Trump's weekend tweets appear only on Saturday mornings when his family handlers, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, practicing Jews, are observing Shabbas. On that day orthodox Jews are forbidden to work and this even includes turning on electrial devices such as stoves, TVs, and smart phones.

Knowing this, it is during this window when he is not under surveillance that Trump as the bad boy he is is at his most uncensored and outrageous. But he goes silent when Ivanka and Jared are again wired up or, if he does tweet any more, knowing they are monitoring him, he is more restrained.

But last weekend, perhaps in part because Jared as quasi Secretary of State was secretly flying off for a visit to Iraq, he published perhaps a dozen tweets. As Joe and Mika reviewed them on air, their dismay turned to horror.

"Who is this person?" Joe asked rhetorically, "I thought we knew him." Mika shrugged and smiled. They thought they knew him from more than a year of having him as a constant presence on their program. He would call in most mornings and they would keep him talking often for up to a commercial-free hour. They rode his wave of popularity as he rode theirs. His poll numbers rose as did their ratings. More viewers tuned into Morning Joe than all other cable shows other than the preposterous and inane Fox & Friends.

An early Saturday morning tweet asked--
When will Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd and @NBCNews start talking about the Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL and stop with the Fake Trump/Russian story?
Not exactly a haiku. And, as Joe and Mika noted, the more things capitalized the more agitated the Commander in Chief.

Then they pointed out, "Sleepy Eyes" is not one of Trump's best sobriquets. It doesn't compare with "Crooked Hillary," "Little Marco," "Lyin' Ted," or for Elisabeth Warren, "Pocahontas."

Another email, a non sequitur asked--
It is the same Fake News Media that said there is "no path to victory for Trump" that is now pushing the phony Russia story. A total scam!
And, still obsessed with Hillary (he can't get over the fact that she beat him by almost 3.0 million popular votes)--
Did Hillary Clinton ever apologize for receiving answers to the debate? Just asking!
For the uninitiated, the "answers" he referred to are actually questions that CNN reporters prepared to pose to Clinton during one of her debates with Bernie Sanders. They were passed along to her campaign by Donna Brazil who was vice president of the Democratic National Committee and a CNN contributor. She subsequently lost both jobs.

At that point, Mika Brzezinski, in visible pain, as if to herself, mumbled, "24th Amendment."

Joe corrected her, "You mean the 25th."

"You think it's time . . . ?"

"I'm beginning to think maybe . . ."

Having depressed themselves they stared blankly into the camera for what felt like an endless five minutes.

To review--the 25th Amendment, which was ratified in 1967, spells out presidential succession. The amendment was needed since the original Constitution was ambiguous about who would become president if the chief executive died or was otherwise incapacitated. In the original document it was not clear if the Vice President was to be the successor. So that needed straightening out.

Also, there was insufficient guidance about what would happen if the president were alive but disabled by, say, a stroke or mental breakdown and how that would be determined. They took great care about this as the amenders did not want to encourage coup d'etats based on false diagnoses.

It is this latter circumstance that is addressed in Section 4 and was alluded to by Mika and Joe.

In its entirety, it reads--
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments [Cabinet members] 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.
This has never happened, but if the amendment had existed during Woodrow Wilson's presidency, it would not have been possible, when he had a massive stroke early in his second term, for his wife, hiding the extent of his disabilities, for all intents and purposes, to serve as acting president for his remaining three years. Section 4 would have been invoked and the VP would have assumed the presidency.

And during Richard Nixon's final days in office, with the 25th Amendment in place, with the president substantially incapacitated because of the drip, drip, drip of Watergate, because he was so out of rational control, a number of his senior advisers thought seriously about enforcing Section 4.

Though they did not do that, he thankfully resigned, but before he did so, among themselves they agreed to tell the Joint Chiefs of Staff that if Nixon late one night, while reeling and raging from too much alcohol, transmitted the nuclear codes that would send nuclear missiles and bombers on a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union, that they should risk treason and not comply.

We are currently not at that point, perhaps, hopefully, far from it; but Joe and Mika spoke the words of deep concern and none of their guests demurred.

But then, a day or two later, from this current scandal that keeps on giving, we learned about Susan Rice's alleged role in "unmasking" Trump aides and secret meetings with the Russians in the Seychelles prior to the new administration taking office to establish a "back channel" connection between Trump and Putin.

Myself, I prefer Claire Danes and Homeland.

It's only an hour an episode and it's fiction. Though by the day it is feeling more and more like reality.

Claire Danes

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