Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What Woodrow Wilson's Stroke Can Tell Us About the Twenty Fifth Amendment

The New York Times has a piece on the 25th amendment and the possibility of removing
Donald Trump. The twenty fifth amendment was designed to stop what happened with Woodrow Wilson. He had a stroke and his wife, doctor, and Chief of Staff hid it from the world for two years. The twenty fifth amendment basically says that if the cabinet decides the president cannot do his job then they can vote to remove the President. This would have to be approved by the Senate but the process would start with the Presidents own cabinet. Here is where it gets interesting and might give us insight on Donald Trumps situation.

Secretary of State Lansing knew what was going on and demanded that President Wilson step down and asked Dr. Grayson and Secretary Tumulty to address the cabinet on his condition. Lansing produced the constitution and read aloud the amendment on constitutional succession. Tumulty snapped and said he didn't need the constitution read to him and that he was fully aware of the right of the Vice President to assume power. "But I will not be part of an effort to remove the President when he is flat on his back." Lansing then turned to Grayson and asked to know the Presidents condition. Dr. Grayson said the President was recovering but could fulfill his duties and then issued a warning. He said the President would be very interested to know who is plotting his removal. The cabinet members then sent on their good wishes and Lansing was left high and dry. 

Vice President Marshall never took over for Wilson because he didn't want to be President. He too said that in effect he didn't want to be accused of stealing the Presidency from Wilson. Edith Wilson ruled until Wilson's term ended. There is a lot of talk of the twenty fifth amendment now but removing a President can be tricky especially if the Vice President does not want the job and the cabinet is not unanimous. Brutus does not want to be caught in the open and so it is really who is willing to stick their neck out first. 

History does repeat itself. President Wilson fired Lansing within a year of  the meeting.

Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson

Books by William Hazelgrove