The publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury marked an important milestone in the Trump administration and last week I discussed the connection between the book and the Future of Media. There are also political implications of the book and the firestorm of publicity it has set off.
Last week I was actually in New York to officially launch a new book, Managing Media Businesses, written by the faculty of IESE’s Advanced Program in Media and Entertainment and edited by myself and Phillip Seager. This year’s program was celebrating its 4th module at IESE New York and has its last segment in Barcelona in April.
Fire and Fury came up during the event as well as during an interview I did on “Tell Me Everything”, a radio show on Sirius XM with guest host Seena Ghaznavi and Tina Dupuy, a political journalist and comedian.
Probably the most damaging message that is emerging from the book and the the media storm, which includes Michael Wolff’s appearance on Morning Joe and a Saturday Night Live spoof of it, is that the picture that emerges of Donald Trump as a man with no sense of judgement, attention span, or ability to absorb complex information. Besides defending his book and his sources, Wolff emphatically told cohosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough that Trump is unfit for office. The narrative that Ms. Brzezinski put forward is that Trump’s mental health has been deteriorating and that the stress of the Presidency was too much for him.
The idea that Trump is mentally unfit for being President opens the door to a constitutional mechanism to remove him from office other than impeachment which I discussed at length in a post a few months ago. Essentially for Trump to be impeached the Democrats will need a majority in Congress and two thirds of the Senate to agree that he has done something terribly wrong.
The other mechanism is to invoke article 4 of the 25th amendment which was passed in the 1960s to spell out the process for presidential succession in emergencies or in the case that the President “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”. Article 4 allows the Vice President and the Cabinet (or some other congressional commission) to declare that the President is “unable”. The Presidency then falls to the Vice President and if the former President then insists then he is actually able to function, then Congress gets involved and needs a two thirds majority of both houses to keep the V.P. in place.
While of all this may sound far fetched, an article in Time Magazine outlines how it would work and the key issue here is that Congress would not have to say that Trump did anything wrong or admit to the White House being the disaster painted by Mr. Wolff in Fire and Fury. They would just need Vice President Pence and a group of Psychologists to say he is “unable”.
Mid Term Elections
In an editorial last Friday, the New York Times rejected this approach and stressed that the real mechanism in place to remove Trump was simply to vote against him and the Republican party. The Republicans currently control both houses of Congress and have, so far, supported Trump despite his constant inappropriate remarks, tweets and behavior so it is unlikely to think they will support removing him for anything less then proof of treason or fixing the last election.
If, on the other hand, the Democrats win big in the mid term elections next November, it might be possible to build a coalition between them and those Republican Senators who feel enough is enough. Some analysts are talking about a “democratic wave” which would change control of the Congress and maybe transfer the presidency to Mike Pence.