Douthat isn’t wrong … until you think about the implication of him calling to remove Trump using the 25th Amendment. Giving a mostly unelected group of people the power to sideline the president because in their subjective judgment he is not good at his job? That doesn’t sound like an amazing precedent to set, even if you are among the many who share that judgment, especially by people who are constantly complaining about Trump’s subversion of democratic norms.
Maybe the fact that “self-selected loyalists” would make the initial decision, rather than a hostile opposition party in Congress, would be a safeguard against this precedent being abused. But the characteristics that Trump’s successors would have to share with him to be vulnerable to 25th Amendment abuse aren’t just his flaws. Any outsider president who brings insiders into his government could be at risk of a palace coup.
It’s entirely plausible that Trump blurted out classified intelligence to impress the Russians. It’s equally believable that Syria hawks inside the administration who don’t want to work more closely with Russia on ISIS leaked an unflattering portrayal of such information-sharing. We don’t really know.
Suggesting Trump’s removal via the 25th Amendment is all but unprecedented. The only comparable 25th Amendment chatter came not in connection to a man-child president like Trump — it was regarding the politically sainted Ronald Reagan. According to his presidential biographer Edmund Morris, Reagan’s penultimate White House chief of staff, Howard Baker, was advised per Washington conventional wisdom that the 40th president was “inattentive, inept,” and “lazy” and should be ready to invoke the amendment against him.