The Seriousness of Succession

05/19/2017 11:33 am ET

If Donald Trump is forced from office prior to the end of his four-year term it will likely go down as one of the most startling collapses in the history of Presidential politics. And while the unfolding investigation has now expanded into the realm of potential criminal conduct led by an unimpeachable special counsel we must only hope that ultimately justice will be done. In the meantime we must also hope that a resolution one way or the other comes quickly so as not to expose either the nation or the world to the calamitous consequences that might spring from a man-child wholly unfit for the Presidency. But what comes next?

Although the processes of our representative democratic government churn slowly, this is all by design. The founding fathers preordained that a viable and highly structured system of checks and balances was the most appropriate safeguard against the tyranny of the majority. So it is not too soon to be thinking carefully about the chain of succession should the Presidency be vacated by any one of a number of circumstances: impeachment, resignation, or invoking the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

What has been largely overlooked but increasingly worrisome to those who have followed the sorry saga since November 8 is the role of the current Vice-President throughout the trials and tribulations of an astoundingly inept and incompetent administration. As the head of the Trump transition and as the individual in the White House with more than a modicum of knowledge regarding the workings of government and politics, the Vice-President should be a valuable and integral part of the inner workings of the administration. However, to date there is little evidence to suggest that this is the case.

In fact, as the fortunes of the President, political that is not financial, continue to spiral out of control, VP Pence has played little more of a role than Curly to the President’s Moe. To complete the metaphor Jared Kushner has assumed the role of Larry while backup Stooge Shemp is neatly played by Steve Bannon. Should this merry band of slapstick pretenders lose their leader the VP stands to inherit the mantle of leadership.

Although he is eminently more qualified than Trump to be President, his performance to date raises many questions. First, is he really as clueless as to what is going on around him? Has he either no interest in or no actual degree of influence over the conduct of the Commander-in-Chief? What does that say about his leadership ability?

Second, if not clueless, has he no veracity or gravitas to simply refuse to put his integrity on the line by consistently and blatantly lying to the American people? Has he no moral compass or respect for the position he has so proudly be elected to? Is he simply a stooge to party over country?

Third, and this may be the most damning of all indictments, is he consciously or even sub-consciously complicit in the drama that may lead to his boss’s demise? If so, is this done out of cowardice or is it a diabolically strategic political maneuver? Either way the country loses.

If Mr. Pence’s performance, to use a word that Trump is comfortable with, is any indication of how he would run the country then we very well could be in a continuing if more controlled downward spiral. This is not to say that we are not in grave danger now with the Twitter King running the show, but Pence does have an ideological perspective and it is dangerously regressive. The Hobbesian choice here is whether it is a better gamble to accept ineffectiveness and uncertainty or effectiveness and certainty. To Trump, making America great again represents a return to the 1950’s. To Pence it most likely would represent a return to the 1850’s. Either way we all are put at tremendous risk and the country and the people lose.

I raise this issue now because in the event of a circumstance where succession is required the country will be under such an enormous stress and anxiety and in such need for relief that they may view any alternative as an improvement. That may not be the case. Thus, we need to begin to train our sights on the misgivings of a second in command who may be similarly engaged in either treasonous complicity, sheer stupidity, or unthinkable spinelessness. He very well may be as unfit to serve as his current boss. Under either of these circumstances our long nightmare will continue.

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