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?

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2 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    People ridiculed the idea Trump will win, so you know, not going to toss around “fantasies” regarding even unlikely possibilities.

    If a President had a stroke like Wilson did today, I in no way am sure that things would have went down the way it did in a different day and age, particularly involving news media and communication. One difference is that a point might be reached (it is only a few months in … again, not going to toss around “fantasy”) that Trump in office in 2017 is more dangerous than Wilson then. In fact, what about if FDR had a stroke in the middle of WWII? Would the parties in question act the same way? How about if it was DURING WWI?

  2. Joe says:

    The “fantasies” btw is a sign of how seriously different people think the current moment is. So, you have advisors of George Bush Jr. telling Trump he must resign. This sort of rhetoric — even if you find it absurd [I don’t, but what do I know?] e– simply is not common. When we get to the point where key players start to use it, “black swan” should not only be applied to the election of 2016. I get the idea usage of language is at least partially a matter of assumptions and assurances, something that can be applied to various sides here.