Mike Pence’s weird dance with the 25th Amendment

Now that Donald Trump has taken his words and behavior to such a deranged new level that even the Republicans are beginning to figure out there’s no choice but to oust him, Mike Pence finds himself in an odd spot in waiting. And things are about to get a whole lot more awkward, as Pence has just cut short his overseas trip to attend an all hands meeting that will include Trump himself. One way or another, this meeting is about the 25th Amendment.

It’s still not clear who called this meeting at Camp David (source: Los Angeles Times), or what their true intention is. Is this Trump trying to rally his administration into not abandoning him? Is this Trump’s team trying to sit him down and convince him that he’s destabilizing his presidency by the hour? Maybe it’s both. But Mike Pence’s decision to cut short his diplomatic trip to attend this meeting is remarkable. He knows what the circumstances are. At the least, he’ll be tacitly reading the room to see whether he’d hypothetically have enough support to invoke the 25th Amendment. And that’s where things get even trickier.

If Pence truly wants to pull off a 25th Amendment coup in convincing fashion, he can’t be seen as wanting to do it. The impartial members of the cabinet would need to view it as Pence reluctantly feeling that he has no choice for the good of the nation, and not as Pence opportunistically seizing the chance to install himself as president. And even if Pence does manage to sell that premise to the majority of the cabinet, he’ll then have to turn around and sell it to the American people as well – which may all come down to presentation.

There are a lot of people on both sides right now who would rather see Mike Pence in the Oval Office than Donald Trump. Conservatives and Republicans think they have a better shot at working with Pence. Liberals and Democrats believe Pence would enter office heavily damaged by Trump’s fiascos and scandals, and that they could forcibly keep him contained until the end of the term (or even impeached in his own right after the midterms). And everyone else just thinks Trump is going to get us all killed. But Pence would still have to pull off a highly delicate dance with the 25th Amendment in order to survive his own ouster of Trump.

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