Thomas Marshall’s Dilemma
Fantasies never die. The one that comes up more frequently than most is that Vice-President Pence, the members of the Cabinet, and supermajorities in both Houses of Congress are going to somehow invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment and remove President Trump from office. There are a million problems with this thought, but let’s focus on just one.
Even when we had a President who was disabled by a stroke at a time when immense political issues were being debated, neither the Vice-President nor the Cabinet (let alone Congress) acted to remove him. I’m talking, of course, about Woodrow Wilson. Granted, President Wilson’s colleagues did not have the benefit of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment or any helpful precedents, but still their collective response to Wilson’s illness was passive to the point of denial.
Vice-President Thomas Marshall (a Hoosier, I might add) took the position that he would assume the Presidency only if a joint resolution of Congress, Mrs. Wilson, and Wilson’s doctor all agreed that Wilson was unfit to serve. This was an impossibly high burden that was probably designed to avoid that outcome. Lots of people in Washington knew that Wilson could not think things through clearly, but virtually nobody said that publicly. If not then, why now?