Can a Sitting US President Be Removed From Office in Wartime?

Fact: The President of the United States can launch a nuclear first strike without consulting anyone.

Question: If America is at war, can a sitting president be removed from office?

I heard that question posed last week as a statement of fact, that a sitting president cannot be removed from office during wartime. I have not yet been able to verify it independently, but the chill that formed around my heart requires me to raise the issue to the larger public since I’m not hearing this conversation anywhere else. I need an answer.

When we tell people that the president can launch a first strike simply by giving the order, they’re usually shocked. They think there has to be a lot of high-level consultation with Congress and others before such a big step could be taken. Calls from members such as Barbara Lee and Ted Lieu for Congress to, at the very least discuss war powers and the circumstances under which we go to war, have gone unheard.

This begs the question, “Should one person have the ability to kill us all?” Because that’s how it stands at the moment.

I believe we need an urgent national conversation on this issue. In the context of the current president who is extremely mercurial, is under investigation and undercuts his cabinet members with impunity, it takes on some urgency. The alarmingly ramped up rhetoric on North Korea and his request for “faster military action,” makes me want to know why, instead of ignoring a strong possible motive.

If people don’t know about these dire issues - as I didn’t know a week ago - how can we respond and push Congress to prioritize them? Speaking on a panel last year about the urgent need for cities to prepare for storm surge effects, a local mayor who was my co-panelist said, “Elected officials respond when we’re hearing about an issue from our constituents.” Citizen involvement is obviously a vital and often overlooked component of good government, but if we don’t know it’s hard for us to take action.

The lessons I’ve learned about Presidents from being in national parks – Lincoln’s Birthplace; Teddy Roosevelt’s Birthplace; Ulysses S. Grant’s Tomb – is that these flawed men raised their aspirations to be worthy of the Office of the Presidency. President Trump unfortunately seems to be trying to mold the Presidency to him as a “businessman.” This is such a corruption of our values to strive for freedom, justice and equality that I have no qualms about raising an alarm.

For more than a week I’ve been striving to write a blog that uplifts and inspires, in the face of stupendous tragedies and unconscionable suffering as we’re seeing in Puerto Rico. I wanted to write about the healing power of nature and how much we need our national parks today for self-discovery, healing and respite. I wanted to mention the pleasure of overhearing our 12 year-old grandson ask his visiting 80-year-old grandfather, “Grandpa, what’s your secret to being so cool?” and Frank’s response, “I just take it one moment at a time, son. I know that everything will pass. And thank you for the great compliment.”

Learning minutes ago that the Nobel Committee has awarded the Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, I know why I couldn’t finish this blog days ago. In her acceptance speech the executive director of the organization said the election of President Donald Trump, "a man you can bait with a tweet," has put a spotlight on the meaning of nuclear weapons.

Now I feel an enormous sense of relief, because you know what I know. I’m determined to do something about it. For starters I signed the UCS USA petition to my US Senators and House Representative and asked them to address the question and let me know the answer.

Apart from trying to save my own life and that of my country, I want to do all I can to assure that our grandson and others have a future. What are you going to do?

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