The President of the United States yesterday showed the world who he really is. However, instead of revealing a wizard behind the curtain, this reveal was no reveal at all. Many believed the mantle of the presidency would temper Trump’s showmanship, believing there was a measured, intelligent individual behind the bluster; that he used television and social media to gain the position but that he would eventually perform some hairpin pivot. Yesterday proved once again that his use of social media simply displayed the real man in plain sight. To appropriate his apologists’ favorite phrase, “there is no there, there.”
Yesterday’s rambling press conference essentially threw a grenade on the measured clarification (read: hostage tape video) he issued Monday to the outrageous, equivocating statement he made on Saturday. The statement on Saturday was, as written, not offensive. It did not call out the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or KKK by name, but it was not unseemly. How low a bar we have set for this president! Instead, he went off script and injected his actual position by asserting blame be placed “on many sides, many sides.”
While Robert Mueller continues his investigation, whispers have once again been heard of invoking the 25th Amendment. For that to work, for America to cast off a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, pathological liar, three individuals and the majority of the Cabinet would have to summon true courage (and face withering condemnation from Trump). Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Senate President pro tempore Orrin Hatch (numbers two, three, and four in the line of presidential succession) would need to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. It reads:
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.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days 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. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
However, if today’s Republican reaction to yesterday’s press conference is any indication, nothing will happen. Republicans, on congressional recess, are harder to uncover today than white truffles in an Italian forest. That silence is in itself a statement. Perhaps it is fear of being the “victim” of a Trump Twitter tirade, maybe it is the fear of being out front on such an issue, or perhaps it is because they do not want to anger their base, which includes some pleased with Trump’s comments yesterday. Nevertheless, it is just these people, emboldened by Trump’s comments, who need to be brought to task and this is just the time to be out front. All politicians fancy themselves historical figures who changed the world. Has there ever been an easier softball for them to hit? So, where are they?
Just as politicians envision themselves historical figures, the average citizen must have wondered what they would have done during historical events. What would you have done during the Revolutionary War? How would I have acted during the civil rights movement? It is against that backdrop that we must ask ourselves, what do we do now? Moreover, looking toward the future, when this week’s events are indeed history, how do we respond to our children and grandchildren when they ask what we did when President Trump defended bigotry? History and our descendants will ask.