Presidential politics is always personal.
It’s not to say the issues don’t matter. Health care, civil rights, the economy, and war are always at the top of the agenda in debates and interviews. But increasingly, the candidates themselves have become issues as contentious as any other.
This was never truer than in the 2016 Presidential race, where Donald Trump dominated media coverage with his exaggerations and unfiltered rhetoric. This has lead some on both sides of the political aisle to wonder just what’s going on inside his head.
Trump isn’t the first candidate to face accusations of being unfit to lead. When John McCain ran in 2008, commentators pointed to his advanced age as a liability (especially since it put Sarah Palin a “heartbeat away” from the office). Obama was accused of being born on foreign soil. Critics said Mitt Romney was too wrapped up in business dealings.
But President Trump is the first candidate in a long time to face questions regarding his mental health.
In the 1972 election, democrat George McGovern chose Thomas Eagleton as his running mate. McGovern was unaware that Eagleton had previous been hospitalized for depression. When he found out, he initially promised to back Eagleton “1,000 percent”, but later consulted with psychiatrists and doctors regarding his would-be vice president. He asked Eagleton to resign, and Eagleton abided.
Further back, in 1964, the press turned its guns on Republican Barry Goldwater. The poorly-named Fact magazine published an article claiming that 1,189 psychiatrists stated Goldwater was unfit to be president due to his mental state. In truth, the claim was misleading at best; the magazine had polled 10,000 psychiatrists, only 2,417 of whom applied, and the majority did not see Goldwater as unfit.
Goldwater lost the election, but he also filed a libel lawsuit against the magazine. Following this incident, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) put in place the “Goldwater Rule”, which reads as follows in the Principles of Medical Ethics:
On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”
In brief, it meant members of the association cannot offer opinions on someone they have not personally evaluated.
In March of 2017, the Washington D.C. branch of the APA debated the rule. Some argued the rule infringed on freedom of expression. One psychiatrist, John Zinner, argued psychiatrists have an obligation to speak out on the issue, just as doctors swear an oath to protect their patients. But not all agreed the rule was obsolete. Mark Komrad worried overturning the rule would turn the public against their profession, which is “already seen as peddlers of a liberal world view.”
Recently, the American Psychoanalytical Association announced it would allow its 3,000 members to comment on Donald Trump’s mental state as they pleased. Many commentators are touting this as a huge change, but the Psychoanalytical group is miniscule compared to the American Psychiatric Association, which boasts over 36,000 professionals in its ranks.
The latter group reaffirmed its commitment to the Goldwater Rule in March.
When the President of the United States takes an unforeseen absence, the presidential line of succession determines who steps in to fill his shoes. Typically, that honour goes to the Vice President. But if this successor should suffer a similar fate, another must swiftly takes his place – and so on.
Previous posts looked at the top three contenders, followed by the second round of successors. Today, we’ll hold to tradition and try on the seventh, eight, and ninth suits in this long presidential line.
#7 Jeff Sessions
No other name in Washington evokes a sense of overbearing southern-ness quite like Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.
For a man among President Trump’s earliest supporters, the Office of Attorney general seems a fitting reward. During his 20-year tenure as an Alabama Senator, Sessions was a lawyer with his eyes on the federal bench. But his nomination was quashed by controversy.
Today, Sessions sits pretty as the country’s highest law enforcement official, giving his former critics what-for.
As president, Sessions would not be too different from the current leader. Jeff Sessions and Trump are alike on nearly every plank of presidential policy, from the environment (“Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food”) to immigration and most everything in between. The only sticking point between them is on infrastructure.
While Sessions loves the idea of a border wall, he’s loathe to pay for it. President Sessions would prefer a more modest solution – perhaps a ditch or a particularly nasty fence.
#8 Ryan Zinke
Ryan Zinke hates trees and loves freedom.
Zinke entered college on a football scholarship and became a star linebacker. He transferred that energy and physical prowess to the battlefield, where he served as a Navy SEAL for 23 years. Zinke was even on Seal Team Six before they were cool.
When he returned to his homeland, Ryan Zinke became the first Navy SEAL to serve in the Senate. He published his memoirs, American Commander, with the writer behind the best-selling American Sniper. And now he’s Secretary of the Interior.
In short, he’s a walking, talking, book-writing American dream. As red white and blue as a jug of apple moonshine.
But what kind of president would he be? A Republican one. Typical of his kind, Zinke supports the wars in the middle east, hates Obamacare, and fights environmental regulation at every turn. Which is probably why President Trump named him to the office in charge of federal land and natural resources, including America’s national parks.
#9 The Mysterious Mike Young
Darkness falls. The streets are quiet. The wind gently carries a torn newspaper across an empty parking lot. The scene is otherwise motionless.
Suddenly, a roar pierces the silence. Not an a cry from an animal, but one from a machine. A black van speeds down the street and turns sharply into the lot, with two of its wheels hanging in the air. It crashes back down to earth and halts. A man steps out from the driver side door.
Could it be Mike Young?
Well, maybe. For all we know, it is. It’s not like we have any clue who he is or what he looks like. It could very well be Mike Young. Is it? We may never find out.
According to legend, Mike Young is both a businessman and a botanist. He’s a Democrat. Rumours are that he is a high-ranking civil servant in the Agricultural Department. And since President Trump has failed to have his nominee for Agriculture Secretary confirmed, Mike Young is the standing Secretary.
What bizarre sequence of events could lead to such a man becoming president? It’s not even certain that anything could. Since we’ve never gotten this far down the presidential line of succession before, no one’s sure if a person who was not confirmed by the Senate could become president.
But it’s not impossible. Nothing is impossible anymore. Not when the Mysterious Mike Young is pulling the strings.
For the past seven years, the Republican Party has promised voters it would repeal and replace Obamacare. This week, President Donald Trump has his sights set on fulfilling that promise.
The huge, big league American Health Care Act is the fabled Obamacare replacement. The bill is currently before the U.S. House of Representatives. If the House passes the bill, it will go next to the Senate. And only when it passes Senate scrutiny will the bill land on the President’s (presumably gold-plated) desk to be signed.
So what does Trump’s Obamacare replacement actually do? Is it as bad as the Democratic Party feared?
While the merits of the bill are obviously subject to debate (even many Republicans are against it), the American Health Care Act does not fully dismantle Obamacare and smash it up into tiny pieces. But it does bring sweeping changes to the current system.
Here’s a quick summary of the American Health Care Act as it stands today.
1. Eliminates Penalties for the Uninsured
Obamacare levies a fine on people who do not have health coverage. It also impacted employers, requiring those with 50 more employees to offer health insurance to 95% of the workforce. These measures were designed to encourage people to purchase insurance.
The American Healthcare Act would end these requirements, instead levying a 30% surcharge on insurance premiums for new healthcare plans if the purchaser had no insurance for 63 days the previous year.
2. Increases Age-Based Premium Caps
Under Obamacare, insurance providers cannot charge their oldest customers more than three times the premiums charged to their youngest customer. The Act plans to increase this cap to five times the youngest customer’s premium.
3. Limits Federal Funding for Medicaid
The American Health Care Act would bring forth three major changes to the way the federal government awards states funding for Medicaid. All would likely result in fewer people enrolled in Medicaid and fewer federal funds in state pockets.
First, Trump’s Obamacare replacement would remove the option for states to expand Medicaid to individuals making up to 138% of the federal poverty line using federal funding.
Second, it would limit Medicaid reimbursements based on the number of patients enrolled and the average medical care costs per state.
The Act would also give states the option of requiring Medicaid recipients to pursue a job or job training in order to continue receiving Medicaid. This would not apply to people who are pregnant, on disability, or working as a caretaker for a family member.
4. Ends Federal Funding of Planned Parenthood
The American Health Care Act would end all federal funding of Planned Parenthood for one year and prohibit federal subsidies for plans covering abortion.
5. Establishes New State Grants
Perhaps surprising given the slew of funding cuts, the Obamacare replacement also introduces a $100 billion fund to help states stabilize their healthcare markets and insure low-income individuals.
6. Repeal Taxes on Insurers, Pharmacies, and Others
What are the insurance companies getting out of the bill? A massive tax cut, for starters.
Obamacare levied taxes on health insurance providers, pharmacies, companies that produce medical devices, over-the-counter medications, and tanning salons. The new bill would sweep all those taxes away, to the tune of $200 billion in lost tax revenue.
7. Cut Taxes for Individuals
Well, the bill sounds great for insurance companies, but what about the common man? Scratch that – what about his boss?
Fear not – the American Health Care Act also ends Obamacare taxes on payroll and investment income tax for wealthy individuals.
- Vice President Mike Pence
- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan
- President of the Senate Orrin Hatch
Today, we’ll look at the next three contenders to the throne, including the first non-republican on the list.
Though they aren’t all red-blooded Republicans, this trio has something in common – see if you can guess what it is. Hint: their boss shares this trait as well.
4. Rex Tillerson
Like something out of a dystopian leftist’s nightmare, oil baron Rex Tillerson comes in as the fourth in line for the presidential office.
While Rex Tillerson is a newcomer to the world of presidential politics, he is no stranger to authority. The Texas oilman started his career at ExxonMobil in 1975 and climbed the ranks to CEO in 2006. Today, he sits at #24 on the Forbes list of most powerful people – and that’s before President Trump offered him the seat of Secretary of State.
Unlike his predecessors, the eminent John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, Rex Tillerson comes to the office with no public sector experience. But if recent history has shown anything, it’s that a dearth of political practice is no barrier to entry in the Oval Office.
5. Steven Mnuchin
Like the Secretary of State, Steve Mnuchin comes to the White House straight off Wall Street. A 27-year veteran of Goldman Sachs, Mnuchin now serves as the Trump administration’s Treasury Secretary.
His appointment was met a controversy so furious that it rivalled Tillerson’s. To start, Mnuchin is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of $500 million. His association with Goldman Sachs is poisonous among democrats and the centre-right alike. As if that weren’t enough, Mnuchin also served at the helm of the beleaguered bank IndyMac at the height of the financial crisis.
It should be noted, however, the Mr. Mnuchin’s appointment is far from the most contentious on our list – but that comes further down the line.
6. James Mattis
Remember when I said these three contenders have something in common? By now, you’re probably thinking wealth. And it’s true that the oilman, the banker, and the dealmaker himself share this trait.
But James Mattis is not a rich man. Nor is he a politician, which is about the only thing that makes him akin to President Trump.
Tillerson and Mnuchin are cut from the same gold-fringed cloth as the man who appointed them, but Mattis is a military man. Some call him Mad Dog – others see him as more of a Warrior Monk. The former marine lead the battle for Fallujah in Iraq and oversaw the war in Afghanistan.
That’s not all that sets Mad Dog apart from the two men ahead in line. Unlike Mnuchin and Tillerson, Mad Dog’s confirmation was almost entirely free from controversy. The Senate gladly confirmed him with a vote of 98 to 1.
For years, it was a given that the president of the United States would have at least some military experience. Even George Bush Junior spent some time in the National Guard. President Obama defied that narrative, and President Trump laid it to rest. For some, President Mattis would be a welcome return to form.
Next time, we’ll look at three more links in the presidential chain, including the first and only Democrat in line for the throne.
What happens if the president dies?
Most of us are somewhat familiar with the United States presidential line of succession. We know the Vice President becomes president if the incumbent dies, resigns, or is removed from office. After all, we’ve all seen it transpire in books, movies, and television shows. And many of us are old enough to have seen the tragedy unfold firsthand.
But what if the Vice President meets the same terrible fate?
The presidential throne cannot sit empty for long. The passing of the torch from POTUS to VP is only step one in the presidential line of succession – there are many more links on the chain, spanning all across the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Of course, at the time of writing, the incumbent president is the grand negotiator himself, Donald J. Trump. Next in line is his vice president, the stark and silver Mike Pence. Staunchly conservative and faithfully Christian, Pence would bring a terrifying piety to the Oval Office not seen since the days of born-again Bush Jr.
Who comes next? Well, that’s when it gets interesting.
Following the presidential line of succession, the burden of the office passes to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Today, that person is Paul Ryan. This is fascinating, given that Ryan is no great fan of Trump or his administration.
Once a contender for the office of VP himself, Ryan is a popular face in his party. But his cold, reluctant acceptance of Trump has never approached anything resembling support. It’s hard to imagine how this Potential President would handle the reins of an administration he can hardly stand to look at.
Next in line is Orrin Hatch, the President pro tempore of the Senate. His unlikely ascension would be a worthy capstone to his career as the longest-serving Republican Senator in history. Hatch would be the first Mormon to serve the office of President, earning a title that once seemed destined for Mitt Romney.
Next time, we’ll creep further down the presidential line of succession and look at the next two republicans (and one independent) who could one day stand at the head of the union.
The Women’s March on Washington has secured their starting location, and is scheduled for the day after the Jan. 20 inauguration. Organziers are still working on the route, but they have revealed the group will start its rally at Independence Avenue and Third Street SW, in front of the Capitol.
“Ultimately we want to have the attention focused on Congress and lifting up our concerns to them,” said Janaye Ingram, the head of logistics for the Women’s March on Washington, adding that organizers are also committed to sending their message of women’s equality to all levels and branches of government. She said that she thinks the group has identified a “valid, workable route.”
Ingram said the group has been working over the past few weeks with D.C. police, Capitol Police and other agencies to secure this location. A D.C. police spokeswoman, Rachel Reid, said the agency met Friday with the march organizers and that they have applied for a permit through the city.
The Women’s March, and about 20 groups have applied for “First Amendment Permits” on National Park Service land around inauguration, though none have been granted yet.
The National Park Service, which handles such First Amendment Permits, said it does not grant any requests until the Presidential Inauguration Committee, which plans the parade and other events to usher in a new president, maps out where it wants to hold inauguration-related activities.
The Women’s March on Washington still has a pending application for a permit for various Park Service locations. Ingram said the group has not rescinded its application but is no longer interested in rallying in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
“We believe that for feminism to be truly powerful it must be inclusive and all voices need to be at that table,” Becca Lee Funk, one of the Outrage’s founders, said in an interview. “This is an important moment in history to show the world what we stand for, and through the Outrage we are allowing people to do exactly that. We’ve found that people are more interested now than ever to have their purchases reflect their values.”
“Every day we get emails from women not only supporting our mission, but also asking how they can get involved and take action,” Funk said. “We literally have people volunteering to come and help us get shipments out. The election results have sparked action across the board — our partner organization She Should Run has seen a dramatic rise in interest from women interested in running for political office. We couldn’t be more excited about it.”