Even Democrats can no longer dismiss the talk out of hand. And they can hardly ridicule it, considering they used it liberally themselves during their long years of Trump derangement. And it is now becoming the baby elephant in the room, the only question being how large it will grow.
The 25th Amendment. There, we said it. Remember how many times Democrats invoked the idea on Trump – and for how many different reasons? They argued for his removal from office on the basis that he was, let’s see, dangerous, delusional, paranoid, unbalanced, unhinged, unstable, disturbed, mad as a hatter or a March hare – whatever sounded best at the time when excitedly amplified by their bullhorns in big corporate media.
Turnabout always being fair play in politics, have the inexplicable actions of President Biden in Afghanistan not raised legitimate questions about his fitness for office? When a president is presented with hard evidence and reliable forecasts from his own top political, diplomatic and military advisers about the inevitable aftermath of impending action, all of which point in one direction, and he ignores all of them, is it legitimate to raise the question of his mental capacity? When a president unnecessarily generates an international crisis of the first order, and then denies the carnage visible to all the world, is it legitimate to bring back to the surface the discussion Democrats were desperate to avoid – and through dumb luck were able to – in 2020?
Indeed, this is hardly a new concern. Polls during the presidential campaign revealed that as many as 60% of Americans believed Biden was in the early stages of dementia. His transparent cognitive decline was going to be a major issue in the 2020 presidential campaign – and would have been if not for the pandemic, economic meltdown and widespread racial unrest which allowed the media to ignore the many alarm bells about Biden’s mental condition. He somehow landed in the Oval Office, but now we face the issue of his mental capacity head-on.
The single word around which all 25th amendment debate revolves is “unable.” What ultimately renders a president unable to perform the duties of his office? How much evidence is needed to reach such a dramatic conclusion? Ratified in 1967, this late addition to the U.S. Constitution provides a framework for succession in the event of presidential disability, but understandably goes no further in describing what constitutes such an affliction. The language in it states that either the president himself, or the majority of top executive branch officials including the vice president and cabinet officers, submit a “written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
So if the 25th amendment was invoked, who would then take over the presidency? Well, you know the answer, and what complicates things is the undisguised political ambition of Kamala Harris, not to mention that she would actually be heading the group seeking Biden’s ouster. Previous vice presidents Dick Cheney, Mike Pence and yes, even Biden himself, represented no threat to the power of their respective presidents, for various reasons. Cheney was granted a broad portfolio, Pence was as dutiful as the day is long, and an already aging Biden had seen his moribund career revived by the president who selected him for the number two spot.
In sharpest possible contrast, the plan for the Biden-Harris ticket has been clear for a good long time: use Biden to get Trump out, and have him step aside after a time for Kamala, who would then become the de facto incumbent candidate for 2024. Does this thinly-veiled blueprint mean Democrats might use the excuse of Afghanistan to allow the process to go forward sooner than planned, thus enabling the vice president to cash in for longer than expected on the advantages of incumbency? If they did, would Republicans really prefer a non-impaired Kamala, judged the most liberal member of the Senate through 2020, over an impaired Biden? Might we witness the almost perverse spectacle of Democrats trying to push Biden out while Republicans try to keep him in? As the subject is raised in the days and weeks ahead, it would certainly be in the vice-president’s interest to float with the 25th. She could cleverly address the question publicly by appearing to avoid discussion of the idea – after mentioning it (“I’m not going to speak about the 25th amendment at this time…”).
Given the political environment in which we find ourselves, almost nothing should any longer seem surprising. Democrats will soon realize, if they haven’t already, that the evident cognitive decline of Joe Biden, forestalled as an issue by the most dumb luck ever granted a presidential candidate, can no longer be minimized or shuffled aside. And as they rapidly tutor a vice president who proved entirely out of her depth as a candidate, they do so realizing that Joe Biden may soon become a millstone around their neck to the point that even a broadly unpopular woman selected exclusively for her race and gender will prove to be preferable.
Read more from Tim Donner.