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Columns

The Guardrails Can't Contain Trump

May 20, 2017 - 7:00am

The pleasant surprise of the First 100 Days is over. The action was hectic, heated, often confused, but well within the bounds of normalcy. Policy (e.g., health care) was being hashed out, a Supreme Court nominee confirmed, foreign policy challenges (e.g. North Korea) addressed.

Donald Trump's character -- volatile, impulsive, often self-destructive -- had not changed since the campaign. But it seemed as if the guardrails of our democracy -- Congress, the courts, the states, the media, the Cabinet -- were keeping things within bounds.

Then came the last 10 days. The country is now caught in the internal maelstrom that is the mind of Donald Trump. We are in the realm of the id. Chaos reigns. No guardrails can hold.

Normal activity disappears. North Korea's launch of an alarming new missile and a problematic visit from the president of Turkey (locus of our most complicated and tortured allied relationship) barely evoke notice. Nothing can escape the black hole of a three-part presidential meltdown.

-- First, the firing of James Comey. Trump, consumed by the perceived threat of the Russia probe to his legitimacy, executes a mindlessly impulsive dismissal of the FBI director. He then surrounds it with a bodyguard of lies -- attributing the dismissal to a Justice Department recommendation -- which his staff goes out and parrots. Only to be undermined and humiliated when the boss contradicts them within 48 hours.

Result? Layers of falsehoods giving the impression of an elaborate cover-up -- in the absence of a crime. At least Nixon was trying to quash a third-rate burglary and associated felonies. Here we don't even have a body, let alone a smoking gun. Trump insists there's no there there, but acts as if the there is everywhere.

-- Second, Trump's divulging classified information to the Russians. A stupid, needless mistake. But despite the media hysteria, hardly an irreparable national security calamity.

The Israelis, whose asset might have been jeopardized, are no doubt upset, but the notion that this will cause a great rupture to their (and others') intelligence relationship with the U.S. is nonsense. These kinds of things happen all the time. When the Obama administration spilled secrets of the anti-Iranian Stuxnet virus or blew the cover of a double agent in Yemen, there was none of the garment-rending that followed Trump's disclosure.

Once again, however, the cover-up far exceeded the crime. Trump had three top officials come out and declare the disclosure story false. The next morning, Trump tweeted he was entirely within his rights to reveal what he revealed, thereby verifying the truth of the story. His national security adviser H.R. McMaster floundered his way through a news conference, trying to reconcile his initial denial with Trump's subsequent contradiction. It was a sorry sight.

-- Is it any wonder, therefore, that when the third crisis hit on Tuesday night -- the Comey memo claiming that Trump tried to get him to call off the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn -- Republicans hid under their beds rather than come out to defend the president? The White House hurriedly issued a statement denying the story. The statement was unsigned. You want your name on a statement that your boss could peremptorily contradict in a twitter-second?

Republicans are beginning to panic. One sign is the notion now circulating that, perhaps to fend off ultimate impeachment, Trump be dumped by way of 25th Amendment.

That's the post-Kennedy assassination measure that provides for removing an incapacitated president on the decision of the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet.

This is the worst idea since Leno at 10 p.m. It perverts the very intent of the amendment. It was meant for a stroke, not stupidity; for Alzheimer's, not narcissism. Otherwise, what it authorizes is a coup -- willful overthrow by the leader's own closest associates.

I thought we had progressed beyond the Tudors and the Stuarts. Moreover, this would be seen by millions as an establishment usurpation to get rid of a disruptive outsider. It would be the most destabilizing event in American political history -- the gratuitous overthrow of an essential constant in American politics, namely the fixedness of the presidential term (save for high crimes and misdemeanors).

Trump's behavior is deeply disturbing but hardly surprising. His mercurial nature is not the product of a post-inaugural adder sting at Mar-a-Lago. It's been there all along. And the American electorate chose him nonetheless.

What to do? Strengthen the guardrails. Redouble oversight of this errant president. Follow the facts, especially the Comey memos. And let the chips fall where they may.

But no tricks, constitutional or otherwise.

Charles Krauthammer's email address is letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

 

 

Comments

I just received word from a friend who was just in Washington, D.C. talking to a couple of Congressmen regarding a business matter who couldn't discuss the business at hand without mentioning Trump and their concern. Apparently the Washington elites are running scared, wringing their hands and ready to bail as all cowards do. It is time for the American people to rally behind our President and let it be known however possible to let Washington know they cannot dislodge this President. All Republican politicians MUST let it be known loudly and publicly NOW that President Trump and his agenda have their FULL support. If any of them are so afraid they will be part of the drained swamp people that they can't support their Party's President, they need to resign immediately and allow another Representative or Senator who can support our President to take their place. It is sad that it has come to this, but not surprising. It would help if Senators McCain and Graham would at least stay silent if they can't support Trump. What don't they get about themselves not being elected President? We do not want their old, stale ideas about foreign affairs that have not worked. They've had years to get their views across and both have been rejected as having any ability to take the top job. The people have spoken.

Loquacious pundits (like Krauthammer) personify the term "boredom", and detract from, and attempt to derail, the mission ALL Americans have assigned to President Trump... "Drain the swamp" and "America First"!!! [ READ: Colorado Congressman Ken Buck's new book "Drain the Swamp, How Washington Corruption is Worse Than You Think" ]. It is an "eye opener"; as was Peter Scweitzer's book "EXTORTION".....

The 25th Amendment is a guardrail, that's why it's part of the Constitution to protect the Nation from an out of control leader, whether physically or mentally incapacitated. Read it carefully. Removal of a President is not by coup, but by procedure, giving the President due process, and rights to maintain office and make his case.

I suggest you re-read that Amendment "Anon" so you will be able to MAYBE grasp the reality that it doesn't "fit" your irrational "wish" and Lemming course towards the cliff... (I suggest a "reading comprehension" class as YOUR "best bet")

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