“From the beginning of this not normal presidency, we’ve had a lot of talk about both impeachment and the 25th Amendment,” says Cato Institute Vice President Gene Healy, author of The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power.
“In most ordinary circumstances…the 25th Amendment is a really poor tool for removing a president,” Healy tells Reason. “It was really designed for presidents that were nearly completely incapacitated: Woodrow Wilson after the stroke, James Garfield dying of blood poisoning after the assassination attempt.”
“During the Trump presidency, when this solution has been proposed, I thought it was pretty unrealistic,” says Healy. “I think we may be in a different situation here, though.”
“The argument for a 25th Amendment solution here would be: How lucky do you feel? Are we sure that what happened at the Capitol, after Trump’s riot rally speech, are we sure that that was peak Trump?…Maybe it is. Do you want to think about how much you’re willing to stake on that proposition?”
The argument for impeaching Trump—an action House Democrats are promising if the president is not removed through the 25th Amendment—is different, Healy says.
“What impeachment does is it puts an additional black mark on a presidency—an additional mark of disgrace and shame,” he explains. “It’s a signal to the presidents that are going to follow that this black mark can be put on you even at the last moments of your presidency if your behavior has been egregious enough. Making Donald Trump the only president to have been impeached twice would really underscore that point.”
A long proponent of impeaching more presidents, Healy hopes the worst arguments against impeachment will be buried in the wake of Wednesday’s storming of the U.S. Capitol.
“I don’t ever want to hear again, that it’s impeachment that’s a constitutional crisis, that it’s impeachment that’s disruptive and anti-democratic. I think that argument deserves to be laughed out of court, given what we’ve experienced over the last few days.”
Produced and edited by Meredith Bragg.
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