Yesterday the president took to Twitter to badger his attorney general about arresting his political enemies, today the Speaker of the House is hinting that power might need to be seized from him due to incapacity.
Just another day in the ongoing collapse of the American republic, the rate of which continues to accelerate as we approach Election Day.
This is a political ploy, of course. There’s nothing the House can do to initiate anything under the 25th Amendment:
Speaker Pelosi: “The president is, shall we say, in an altered state right now. So I don’t know how to answer for his behavior” during ongoing stimulus negotiations. pic.twitter.com/89mZ9I50lt
— The American Independent (@AmerIndependent) October 8, 2020
President Trump’s “disassociation from reality would be funny if it weren’t so deadly,” Speaker Pelosi says in update on Covid-19 relief talks.
“We have to shed a bright light on what has been possible for months that they chose to ignore because of their contempt for Congress.” pic.twitter.com/FsMmxcY1rq
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 8, 2020
.@SpeakerPelosi: “Tomorrow, by the way, tomorrow, come here tomorrow. We’re going to be talking about the 25th Amendment.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 8, 2020
The president can have his powers removed under Section 4 of the amendment only if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet (or some other body provided by Congress, which would require approval from the Republican Senate) declares that he’s incapacitated. Needless to say, there’s nothing Trump could say or do to get sedate loyalist Mike Pence to turn on him, particularly so close to an election. He could reenact the baseball-bat scene from “The Untouchables” at a Senate Republican lunch, attacking members for their lack of “enthusiasms,” and Pence would smile serenely and say something like, “The American people have always admired the forceful way President Trump makes his point.”
So whatever Pelosi has to say tomorrow will be purely advisory, little more than a stunt.
But that’s not to say it won’t be an effective stunt. Accusing Trump of being loopy due to the medication he’s on is a way to keep his bout with COVID in the news even as he seems to be on the mend. It also bolsters one of the leading reasons why he’s slipped in the polls lately, I suspect. It’s not just that the White House seems to have been so reckless in its precautions against infection, it’s that normie voters are exhausted with the daily insanity of news in the Trump era. In the span of six days last week, he threw a big maskless un-distanced party at the White House for a new Supreme Court nominee; pissed off voters by turning the first debate with Biden into a sh*tshow with relentless interruptions; was diagnosed with coronavirus; then had to be flown to the hospital because his condition immediately began to deteriorate in a concerning way.
Two days after that he was taking an ill-advised joy ride around Walter Reed despite still being infectious. A day later he was doing a bizarre photo op on the White House balcony, saluting while gasping for air, then cutting a weird video where he tried to convince people that the disease that had just threatened his life was no big deal.
In the three days since, he pulled the plug on a new stimulus before the election for no discernible reason and threw a a big tantrum about having to do a virtual debate. Amid all that he’s been tweeting manically about treason and arresting people and proclaiming himself cured of the virus thanks to Regeneron’s antibody drug.
It. Never. Stops.
A lot of middle-ground voters just want it to stop, I think. It’s not an election about health care or riots or Court-packing anymore. It’s about this: F***ing enough already.
Pelosi’s 25th Amendment chatter is a way to keep that feeling front and center. “News today from Capitol Hill: Could the president be removed temporarily because the powerful steroid he’s taking has made him manic? We’ll show you what the Speaker of the House had to say next.” The average voter’s going to hear that on the 6:30 news and think, “F***ing enough already.”
No one except his doctors knows whether the COVID medication is affecting Trump’s mind but his behavior does seem “extra” since returning to the White House. Some of the things he said during his interview this morning with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business were outlandish even by his usual standards. He did call himself a “perfect physical specimen” and “extremely young,” as Pelosi notes in one of the clips. He complained that Bill Barr hasn’t arrested Obama and Biden yet. He called Kamala Harris a “communist” and a “monster.” He claimed Biden won’t last two months as president. He said he doubted the polls because the boat parades his fans are organizing all have many boats participating. At one point he suggested that he might have been infected by a Gold Star family member, of all people, at the event the White House held for those families on September 27 — even though it’s believed he was already infectious at the Barrett event held a day earlier. If anything, some family members might have been infected by him.
Oh, he ranted about Hillary Clinton a bit too and said he was disappointed in Mike Pompeo, arguably the single most loyal member of his administration apart from Pence.
None of that is starkly unusual in isolation. But all together in a single interview, it’s a bit much even for him. Which is not to say that Pelosi’s theories about an “altered state” are true: People continue to chatter on social media about the mental effects of dexamethasone but there’s no hard evidence that Trump is feeling that sort of influence from the drug. What may be happening is that he’s looking at the polls, realizing that the odds of a humiliating landslide defeat are rising relative to another upset victory, and starting to get agitated about it. What that portends for his behavior over the next few weeks and beyond, during the lame-duck session, is anyone’s guess. But I’d bet things will get worse before they get better.