The Twenty-Fifth Amendment and Mental Illness
There is a fantasy making the rounds that the Twenty-Fifth Amendment will be invoked to remove the President from office because he is “unable” to discharge his duties. This is just one of the many silly attempts to find a constitutional silver bullet to avoid the reality that there will be four years of this Administration (rogue electors, Emoluments Clause, impeachment, etc.).
Still, I came across an interesting article by Robert Gilbert that was published in 2010 by Fordham Law Review. He pointed out, which I didn’t know, that at least two Presidents suffered from severe depression in office due to personal tragedies. One was Franklin Pierce, whose son was killed in a train accident shortly before the Inauguration. The other was Calvin Coolidge, whose son died from a freakish staph infection after playing tennis at the White House. Indeed, Coolidge’s passivity in office may have had less to do with ideology and more to do with grief and disinterest in work after his son’s death. In neither case, of course, was there a constitutional mechanism available for the President to step aside temporarily or be permanently relieved of his duties (short of impeachment). Even now, one can see that a comparable situation would present some really challenging problems that are different from the standard thought that a president could be physically disabled.