“You will never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. You have to be strong.” — President Donald Trump at his Jan. 6 rally.
It is an interesting bit of constitutional trivia to note that since 1967, the 25th Amendment has been invoked only six times. Section 1 has been invoked once; Section 2 twice; and Section 3 three times. Section 4 — which specifies that a president can be removed from office by the vice president and a majority of his Cabinet — has never been put into play.
Now is the time to correct this trend. The vice president is wrong to oppose the measure.
A reasonable person might say that calling upon Section 4 just 13 days before a new president’s inauguration is too little too late. They say the damage is done, that nothing more can be gained from further inflaming Trump or his supporters.
Such a person, however reasonable they may appear to be, is wrong. Worse, they are capitulating — both to the president and to the citizens who, for the first time in American history, occupied the Capitol Building. There are times when it is risky to play it safe, and there are times where bold action is the only reasonable course.
The president’s incitation of the rioters was, at best, a wanton abuse of power. At worst, it was treasonous. In either case, his punishment should be swift and severe — and the 25th Amendment is the best way of going about that.
What, the reader might ask, is the benefit of removing the president so late into his presidency? What more damage can be done? Well, if the mere number of days left in his administration is to be our guide, the answer is this: The exact damage he could inflict with 13 days remaining is not appreciably different from the damage he inflicted with 14 days remaining.
Do not assume we have seen the worst yet to come. Do not assume, as Senator Susan Collins once did, that the president has “learned his lesson.” To do so would demonstrate breathtaking naivete.
Indeed, those who have exhorted the president to show leadership during this crisis have failed to notice the president is doing what they wish. This president — our president — is simply unwilling to lead the country in the direction it must go.
What Trump and his supporters — those “great patriots” whom he “love[s]”— have accomplished is not technically a coup, but is clearly sedition. They have shattered America’s streak of peaceful transitions of power, which has gone unbroken since the time of the Civil War. Remember that when you see the picture of a man roaming the Capitol halls as he waves a Confederate Battle Flag. He was inspired by a member of “the party of Lincoln.”
Pay little mind to the fact that America’s elected officials were certifying electoral votes hours later or that the president was successfully dragged, kicking and screaming, into promising an orderly transition.
It is immaterial in adjudicating the seriousness of what has transpired.
Never trust the words of a desperate man — nor a treasonous one.
No, the best way to think about invoking the 25th is not “too little too late” but “better late than never.”
To do so does not merely punish the president and the supporters who infiltrated the Capitol. The more important feat is the precedent such an invocation would set.
Removing the president by means of the 25th Amendment sends an indelible message to all presidents of the future: President Trump’s actions were not tolerated, and similar acts will not be either. Invoking the 25th Amendment says, quite clearly, as nothing else can, that insurrectionist acts will result in the arrest of the perpetrators, the quiet removal of the president and the return to the orderly functions of the government — as it should be. Ideally, the process would be put into motion by the president’s own officials, the same officials who owe their current livelihoods to the man they deem unfit for the job.
Indeed, the question the vice president and the Cabinet officials must ask themselves is the same question all reasonable Americans must ask themselves: If what transpired yesterday does not rise to the occasion of removal, what does?
Remember: Americans committed to democratic norms and peaceful transitions of power “will not take our country back with weakness.”
Let the Constitution, not violence, be our strength.