America dodged a bullet in the fall of 1973.
As the vultures circled the Nixon administration, it was the Vice-President who was picked off first. Nixon’s fabulously corrupt VP Spiro Agnew (fun fact – his name is an anagram of ‘grow a penis’) resigned from office in disgrace just ten months before Nixon himself was ousted in early August 1974.
Agnew’s departure effectively forced Nixon to elevate Gerald Ford, the House Minority leader, to the Vice-Presidency. Tricky Dicky may have wanted George H.W. Bush as his second Veep, but Bush (as chairman of the RNC) was himself under investigation for financial impropriety. Already weakened, Nixon had little choice who to select, and Ford was widely seen as a safe pair of hands.
From there things unraveled quickly. By August of ’74, Ford had still not moved into the Vice-President’s official residence, and when he was shown evidence of Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal, told his wife Betty ‘I don’t think we’re ever going to live in the Vice-President’s house’. Within days, he was President.
Had Spiro Agnew not resigned ten months before the President he served, America might have faced the double crisis of a President and Vice-President being removed from office simultaneously. Third in line of presidential succession is the President pro tempore of the Senate, who at the time was Mississippi Democrat James Eastland, a near-70-year old civil rights opponent in the autumn of his career. It would have been a titanic mess.
This story looks increasingly relevant as President Trump and his administration continue to present a master-class in incompetence. 100 days in, with Russian scandals daily, no legislation passed and with mainstream media now openly debating the President’s mental capacity, few doubt that the vultures are circling perilously close to Donald J. Trump. It seems only a matter of time before disarray turns into collapse.
Trump has surrounded himself with a retinue of scoundrels, crooks, extremists and dunder-headed misfits. And that is a big problem. Because although James Madison’s drafting of America’s constitution was nothing short of genius, provision was only made for how to deal with an individual political ogre. There is no remedy for an entire administration staffed by thieves and villains.
If Trump is removed from office Mike Pence becomes President. Pence is a religious and political extremist, and may prove a worse President than Trump, given that he may actually be able to enact his agenda.
The Republican Party is now a dysfunctional group of incompetent extremists, able to oppose but chronically inept at governing. There is no easy way out here. Stupidity, extremism and idiocy is here for the next four years, as is their finger on the nuclear button. The human race is in danger.