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No system in place to replace unstable candidates

Oct 4, 2016

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a President of the United States went stark raving mad? As in, thinking he or she was an eggplant?

Actually, there IS a system to deal with that. As I understand it, all that would have to happen would be for the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to sign a declaration that the president was not competent, and send it to Congress.


The vice president would then be acting president. When and if the President felt he was back to normal, he could notify Congress of that, and get back to work. If the vice president and cabinet disagreed, however, Congress would have to decide who should be in charge.

That’s a little cumbersome, perhaps, but there is a mechanism, just as there is if a President should die in office. However, here’s the flaw in the system. What if we were to have a major party presidential nominee who turned out to be crazy?

To the best of my knowledge, there’s nothing that could be done, except to hope the voters have common sense. If a nominee were to die or resign before the election, then the party’s national committee could designate a replacement. But otherwise, they are stuck.

This is, as you may have guessed, not a purely hypothetical question. We have a major party presidential nominee who, last week, got up in the wee hours of the morning to send tweets to the world about a woman who was the winner of a Miss Universe pageant 20 years ago.

“Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?” he asked.

There is no evidence, by the way, that the contest winner ever made a sex tape. The candidate has also long been obsessed with this woman’s weight, calling her Miss Piggy, among other things, or Miss Housekeeping, in an apparent insult to her Hispanic heritage.

Now I’d be willing to bet that if you started sending out such tweets about a woman you used to work with, you, at the very least, would find yourself in major trouble at the office.

Instead, all this is coming from a man who wants us to give him control of the nuclear button. Nolan Finley, the normally down-to-earth editorial page editor of the conservative Detroit News, wrote a column Sunday speculating that the candidate is doing this deliberately to “hand the White House to Hillary Clinton.”

Finley also speculated that after the election, the Clinton Foundation would pay him a billion dollars. (As if that wouldn’t trigger impeachment proceedings.)

But if it’s not a conspiracy, Finley wrote, the only other possible answer is, “that (the candidate) has a serious mental disorder that traps him inside the brain of a 13-year-old boy.”

Bingo. This is a man, after all, who when asked by Howard Stern eleven years ago what he would do if his wife were to be seriously disfigured in a car accident, asked “how do the breasts look?”

Every Republican now has a monumental problem, one more a test of morality and honor than politics. In coming years, they deserve to be judged by how they dealt with this dilemma.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.