By Chris Honoré
Part 3 of a 3-part series
“May you live in interesting times,” is thought to be an ancient Chinese saying. However, though it sounds like a wish for peace and tranquility, it actually is meant to convey that life is most interesting and intense when chaos and disorder rule.
If that’s the case, then we are indeed living in interesting times.
All branches of our government are being tested by a sustained disruption bordering on what can seem like political bedlam, all emanating from the White House. It has, thus far, been a disconcerting, harrowing ride, and for some it has required an act of will to look away and not watch the political drama unfold.
I realize that in many previous columns I have listed Donald Trump’s countless statements, tweets and accusation, all aimed at institutions and individuals, some so detached from reality, so strange, as to defy gravity.
But consider one recent example that took place on his recent overseas trip wherein he met with the 29 members of NATO and delivered an address at the organization’s new headquarters. Trump admonished those present for not spending enough on their militaries while he ignored that since its formation, in 1949, it has led the way to a new international order, committed to peace and economic cooperation. NATO also has, as part of its charter, Article Five, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all.
Trump, in his speech, failed to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Article Five. His remarks were made while he stood just feet from a large metal sculpture of twisted steel, a shattered beam taken from the World Trade Center and a reminder that when America was attacked, Article Five was implemented for the first and only time and our allies stood with us during and after 9/11.
Why would Trump excise from his speech America’s unyielding support of and gratitude to our NATO partners? Yet he did. This was no small thing. It was a stunning failure of policy and diplomacy, and it once again reflects his narrow, myopic worldview, one that leans toward authoritarian strongmen, most especially Russia’s Putin. Note that just prior to his meeting with NATO in Belgium he was romancing the Saudis in Riyadh with a $110 billion dollar arms deal.
And so the chaos continues, as do multiple investigations into not only Russia’s intrusion into our presidential election, but a pursuit for an answer to that seminal question whether the Trump campaign colluded with Putin’s trolls in order to harm Hillary’s campaign.
But just as fundamental to the above is the dilemma regarding what will take place if we conclude that the man elected not by the popular vote but by the Electoral College is fundamentally ill-equipped to govern?
There are alternatives set forth in the Constitution though they seem less than viable.
The first is the 25th Amendment, added to the Constitution in 1967. Under section 4, a president can be removed from office if it is determined that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” This judgment must be made by the vice-president, to include a majority of Cabinet secretaries or a congressionally appointed body. If the president challenges the implementation of the 25th, then the House and the Senate must vote in the affirmative by a two-thirds majority. Given that both chambers have Republican majorities, such a remedy is unlikely.
There is a more familiar remedy: impeachment. This involves turning the president out of office for “treason, bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” by a simple majority vote of the House followed by a decision by the Senate to convict or dismiss, which requires a two-thirds majority.
Given that the Republicans dominate Congress, the likelihood of the House charging and the Senate convicting is remote.
There is the possibility that what is revealed in the course of the Russian investigation is so egregious, to include obstruction of justice, that even a Republican Congress cannot rationalize or equivocate. Then Act 3 of our national morality play will get really interesting. Meanwhile, the stress test of our democracy continues.
— Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.