The 25th Amendment Was Adopted for a Moment Like This

The Constitution spells out a remedy to rescue swiftly the nation from an incapable president clinging to power.

AP/Matt Kelley, file
Vice President Harris embraces President Biden after a speech on healthcare at Raleigh, North Carolina, March. 26, 2024. AP/Matt Kelley, file

President Biden is incapable of governing. Americans can see it, and perilously our adversaries can, too. The Constitution spells out a remedy in the 25th Amendment. A Constitution is just a piece of paper, though, only as good as the people who have taken an oath to live by it. For the 25th Amendment to work requires selfless patriotism — something lacking in the Biden administration.

Mr. Biden is surrounded by rogues — including Vice President Harris and Attorney General Garland, who swore to support the Constitution but are defying it.  Their attempts to hide Mr. Biden’s disability are a national disgrace. 

The 25th Amendment says that a president unable to serve can either voluntarily transfer authority to the Vice President, or be removed at the instigation of the Vice President.

On Friday in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, the president doubled down, insisting he is the most capable person for the job and will run for re-election. A growing number of top Democratic officeholders and party bigwigs are calling on bumbling Biden to drop out of the race to prevent a wipeout at the polls. The party’s fate in November is not the most important issue, though. Mr. Biden is unfit to run the country now.  

The 25th Amendment is designed to swiftly rescue the nation from this dangerous situation — an incapable president clinging to power. The process begins with the Vice President and Cabinet declaring the president “unable to fulfill the powers and duties of his office.” 

The Vice President becomes Acting President. If the president disagrees and reclaims his authority within four days, the decision shifts to Congress, which can remove the president with a vote of two thirds of both chambers.

That’s the process. It depends, though, on patriots, not partisan hacks.

In January, Mr. Garland’s special counsel, Robert Hur, reported that although Mr. Biden had broken the law by mishandling classified documents, the president was too much of a doddering old fool to stand trial, in Mr. Hur’s words an “elderly man with a poor memory.”  

When House Republicans asked for the audio tapes of Mr. Hur’s conversations with Mr. Biden, Mr. Garland was so determined to hide the president’s stammering, confused speech that he defied a Congressional subpoena.  The Attorney General broke the law to conceal the president’s incapacity.

Fast forward half a year. After Mr. Biden’s alarming debate performance, Congressmen Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, and Clay Higgins, Republican of-Louisiana, called on Ms. Harris to use her powers under the 25th Amendment to  convene the Cabinet and “respond to this moment of crisis by gently removing President Biden” from office.

Instead, Ms. Harris is covering up, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that President Biden is “extraordinarily strong.”    

Some will  reject using the 25th amendment, arguing that an Acting President Harris would be more dangerous than doddering Joe Biden. At least the nation will get to assess our vice president in the top job on a trial basis before the November election.

The 25th Amendment was drafted in 1965, after the assassination of President Kennedy, and with concerns still fresh about the numerous illnesses of his predecessor Dwight Eisenhower.

When Congress debated the amendment, not everyone was convinced Cabinet members would dare defy a sitting president, no matter how incapacitated. But Senator Dirksen argued that during “a monumental national crisis, …those charged with responsibility will do what is in the public interest.”

The Biden administration is failing that test.

Before the 25th amendment, concealing presidential weakness  was a recurring problem, because those closest to the President didn’t want to lose power. When President Garfield was wounded by an assassin in 1881, his cabinet kept his incapacity secret for over two months until he died of the wound.  

After Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919, his wife Edith, his physician, and his private secretary kept mum and ran the country for seventeen months.

Jill Biden is doing the same, the 25th Amendment be damned.   Since the debate, Mr. Biden’s circle appears to have shrunk to his wife, her advisor Anthony Bernal, whom she dubs her “work husband,” speech writer Mike Donilon, and most important, Hunter Biden. The first son is acting as his father’s gatekeeper.

The addled president is in a bunker, a dangerous situation for the nation. 

Gracing the cover of Vogue, the first lady is quoted saying “We will decide our future.”  

Outrageous. The impaired president and his wife should not be able to hold onto power, endangering the national interest. Americans adopted the 25th amendment for a crisis like this one. 


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