HILL: Inability to discharge the powers and duties of the presidency 

President Joe Biden speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. should do the honorable thing and resign the presidency of the United States of America on his own volition today ― for his sake, the sake of the country and the security of the world. 

Everyone remembers where they were when the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded on Jan. 28, 1986. Everyone who saw Biden’s ill-fated press conference on Feb. 8, 2024 will remember when they saw a president self-immolate live on-camera.  

It was sad and painful to watch. It is clear to everyone in the world now after three years of incoherent speech and behavior President Biden shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car to the grocery store much less have access to the nuclear codes and make decisions as chief executive and Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation in the history of the world. 

No one wants to willingly give up any office of high importance after working a lifetime to get there. It was only after congressional leaders went to the White House to tell President Richard Nixon he had lost the confidence of the Republican caucus that Nixon performed perhaps his only honorable act during the entire sordid Watergate saga which was to voluntarily resign for the good of the country on Aug. 9, 1974.  

America had one other extended period where an incapacitated president stayed in office when he shouldn’t have ― Woodrow Wilson for the last eighteen months of his presidency. Wilson suffered a massive stroke on Oct. 2, 1919 and was bedridden until he left the White House in March 1921. His wife, Edith, controlled access to him the entire time and was understood to be the person signing executive orders and making policy decisions for the incapacitated president.  

Edith Wilson was not elected to be president of the United States. Neither was Dr. Jill Biden nor any of the Obama-era holdovers now aides to President Biden. None of them should be allowed to make decisions only an elected president was elected to do. 

Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution says: “In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President”. There have been numerous cases where a sitting president was incapacitated for some length of time when transfer of presidential power was not invoked due to differences of opinion over the president’s perceived length of “incapacitation” and expectation of recovery. 

William Henry Harrison died nine days after taking ill one month after being sworn in as POTUS in 1841. Zachary Taylor died five days after becoming ill in 1850. James Garfield somehow survived eleven weeks after being shot in 1881, meeting only once with his Cabinet. Grover Cleveland had cancer surgery and somehow, just like Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, was able to keep it secret for a period of time. Eisenhower suffered heart attacks and abdominal surgery but did not transfer power to his vice president because he did not like or respect Nixon very much.  

It wasn’t until 1967 that the 25th Amendment was ratified which clearly delineated the process by which power from the president would be peacefully transferred to the sitting vice president. Upon ratification, President Lyndon Johnson, who had been unable to voluntarily transfer power while he underwent surgery to his VP, Hubert Humphrey said: 

“It was 180 years ago, in the closing days of the Constitutional convention, that the Founding Fathers debated the question of presidential disability. John Dickinson of Delaware asked this question: ‘What is the extent of the term ‘disability’ and who is to be the judge of it?’ No one replied. It is hard to believe that until last week our Constitution provided no clear answer. Now, at last, the 25th Amendment clarifies the crucial clause that provides for succession to the Presidency and for filling a vice presidential vacancy.” 

If there ever was a time for Section 3 of the 25th Amendment allowing for a president to do the honorable thing and willingly transfer power to the sitting vice president, it is today. If there ever was a time for the VP and Cabinet to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment and declare the incumbent president as “unable to discharge his duties,” it most certainly is today as well.