Trump, North Korea, and the Limits of Checks and Balances

As we are all aware, Trump has been responding to North Korea’s saber rattling with saber rattling, and has even ridiculed Secretary of State Tillerson’s efforts at negotiating, which raises the question, is Trump going to drop a nuclear bomb on North Korea?

That leads to another question:  can he?  Does the president have the power, without consultation or concurrence with anyone else, to order the use of nuclear weapons against a foreign adversary?  The simple, and scary, answer to that question is yes.

As was explained in this NPR report on Tuesday morning, October 3, 2017, the only way that Trump can be stopped, if he orders a nuclear strike, is if Vice President Pence and a majority of his cabinet decllare (and this would have to move really fast, like within minutes) that his order for a nuclear strike shows he is unable to perform the functions of the president (by virtue of being crazy) and use the 25th Amendment to put Pence in office.  This requires a two-thirds vote from both chambers of Congress (still according to the 25th Amendment).  The wording looks pretty clear to me that such an extraordinary move cannot happen without Pence’s cooperation; the exact wording in the 25th Amendment is that it has to be decided by “the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide.”  Again, “the Vice President and.”

And this raises another obvious question:  Does Mike Pence believe that the country needs to be protected from the dangers of having a madman like Donald Trump for a president?  Unfortunately, from the point of view of many of us, it would not appear so.  After all, what is Mike Pence’s chief of staff doing today?  Talking to a roomful of donors about how Congressional Republicans who don’t support the Trump agenda need to be drummed out of office and replaced with Trump loyalists.  Politico story, October 3, 2017 .

I wish I could say that I think the people around Trump will do the right thing if and when they really have to, but what do I know?  I was sure things could never get this far, and yet they did.


One thought on “Trump, North Korea, and the Limits of Checks and Balances

  1. Renetj1023

    Unfortunately even with him displaying so many clear isgns that he is unfit for presidency he will still as you said only be kicked out of office if there are 2/3 votes AND the vice president. That is probably not gonna happen until AFTER he does something extremely erratic. Its as if him provoking Kim Jong Yun makes him feel bold and mighty but its also going to lead us into war. Not just any war, i think it will trigger a chain of events where North Korea’s allies will get involved and we won’t stand a chance and it will be world war 3. I fear for his next set of rants that will ultimately set off a firestorm of reactions and all types of warfare that we are not prepared to fight against. He is clearly your typical rich and entitled spoiled brat who has temper tantrums via twitter and during press conferences. I’m truly ashamed to have him as the leader of this country. We are definitely the laughing stock of the world right now. I can only pray that his actions and comments don’t affect us or our children in the very near future.


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