Ross Douthat, the conservative New York Times columnist, even suggests the elites of Washington should get rid of Trump through the use of the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of the president if a majority of the cabinet informs the Congress that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and if a two-thirds vote of Congress confirms that judgment in the face of a presidential challenge. This was written of course for such circumstances of presidential incapacity as ill health or injury, but Douthat’s commitment to the counterrevolution is such that he would advocate its use for mere presidential incompetence.
Consider the story of Trump’s revelation of classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the United States. No one disputes the president’s right to declassify governmental information at will, but was it wise in this instance? Certainly, it was reckless if he exposed sources and methods of intelligence gathering. But did he?
The president and his top foreign policy advisers, who were present during the conversation, say he didn’t. The media and Trump’s political adversaries insist that he did, at least implicitly. We don’t know. But we do know that when this story reached the pages of The Washington Post, as a result of leaks from people around Trump who want to see him crushed, it led to a feeding frenzy that probably harmed American interests far more than whatever Trump may have said to those Russians. Instead of Trump’s indiscretion being confined to a single conversation with foreign officials, it now is broadcast throughout the world. Instead of, at worst, a hint of where the intelligence came from, everyone now knows it came from the Israelis. Instead of being able to at least pursue a more cooperative relationship with Russia on matters of mutual interest, Trump is once again forced back on his heels on Russian policy by government officials and their media allies—who, unlike Trump, were never elected to anything.
Thus is the Trump crisis now superimposed upon the much broader and deeper crisis of the elites, which spawned the Trump crisis in the first place. Yes, Trump is a disaster as president. He lacks nearly all the qualities and attributes a president should have, and three and a half more years of him raises the specter of more and more unnecessary tumult and deepening civic rancor. It could even prove to be untenable governmentally. But trying to get rid of him before his term expires, absent a clear constitutional justification and a clear assent from the collective electorate, will simply deepen the crisis, driving the wedge further into the raw American heartland and generating growing feelings that the American system has lost its legitimacy.