After the latest Tweet storm initiated by President Trump, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinsky said out loud what pretty much every sensible person knows. The President of the United States is mentally unstable. The stunning video below, from today’s “Morning Joe” show should remove all doubt. The video, about 30 minutes long, should be watched in full.
Up until this point the strategy of Congressional Republicans has been to keep some distance between themselves and Trump hoping to contain the damage. It is worth noting however that Congressional Republicans have demonstrated an impressive ability to inflict substantial wounds on themselves without any outside help.
That said, with his latest outburst President Trump went well beyond providing more evidence (as if more were needed) that he is merely an incompetent fool. He opened the door to out loud discussions about his mental health. Once that discussion begins, it is hard, or at least ought to be, for any serious person to examine all the publicly available evidence and conclude that the man is well.
This makes for quite a dilemma. The President, by virtue of his office, is immensely powerful. Probably—almost certainly—too powerful. And if anyone needs reminding, the President of the U.S. is Commander in Chief of the mightiest military in all of human history. Moreover, the President has the executive agencies of the federal government at his disposal, as Barack Obama was only too happy to point out. Trump obviously needs to be reined in.
But the way to do so is elusive. While Trump needs to be reined in, it isn’t quite clear how to do so without causing more harm. The institutional constraint built into the system is the Congress. But Congress has allowed its power as a separate but co-equal branch of government to atrophy for a very long time, choosing instead to show undue deference to the Executive branch and federal agencies. But removing Trump from office by way of impeachment without substantial evidence of real “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” something the Democrats appear perfectly willing to do, would be an institutional catastrophe. It would substantially weaken our political institutions; there would properly be significant doubt about the legitimacy of the successor government; millions of Trump voters would be embittered, and were it to happen, the behavior of Trump himself during the process would be inherently unpredictable.
It seems that the only way out of what is rapidly becoming a dangerous situation is for the Republican Congressional leadership to stop apologizing for Trump and assert the independence of the legislative branch. To begin with, they could start by forming a Special Investigative Committee that would begin by issuing a blizzard of subpoenas concerning the management of lots of Executive Agencies, including the IRS. They could also subpoena financial records of various Trump enterprises to see just how much, if at all, those enterprises and the government are entangled.
A full-fledged political assault from Republicans in Congress would tie up the Trump Administration thereby potentially minimizing the harm Trump is likely to do, left to his own devices. It would resurrect the importance of the legislative branch that has become little more than an afterthought. And it would not be subject to dismissal as a mere partisan witch-hunt.
And it might even save the GOP from itself and bring it back to its roots as the Party of Lincoln.
But I’m not counting on it.