Is there any way to remove Trump short of impeachment, which seems a long way away, for numerous political, legal, and practical reasons? A popular view among his many opponents is that he could be declared mentally incompetent under the 25th Amendment. But that approach seems even more far-fetched than impeachment. Trump is irascible and impulsive, but he is not mentally disabled, and there is no use pretending that he is. Some Democrats in Congress have proposed a bill that would create an oversight council consisting mostly of physicians and mental health experts, who would be given the power to examine Trump and declare him mentally disabled. But if they were to do so, they would surely be accused of politicizing psychology. Psychology is a terribly weak field, with a long history of being abused for political reasons. While there is a real danger that Trump, like any other elderly person, might develop dementia, I suspect that an oversight council staffed by responsible physicians would refuse to make such a finding until it was already obvious to the world.
In trying to find another path, I argue here that the vague authorities in the 25th Amendment could be used to jury-rig an oversight council that evaluates that president’s political competence rather than his mental competence. A mentally competent president may still be a terrible president, and if he loses the confidence of both parties, an argument can be made that he should be removed from office. This is admittedly a device for giving our presidential system some of the characteristics of the much-envied parliamentary form that prevails in countries like the United Kingdom.