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The mental health of politicians

  1. Mar 4, 2005 #1
    Like the rest of us, politicians have a doctor who's job it is to take care of their patient's health. Life in politics can especially stressful e.g. Blair's recent heart problems. In England, if a patient becomes "a danger to themselves or others, the Mental Health Act can be invoked. This allows a patient to be placed under an order, a part or 'section' of the Act, and taken to hospital against their will"
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/mental_health/inside_acute.shtml

    Now if we were to apply the same rules to politicians as everyone else, then shouldn't we stop politicians who seemed mentally unwell (e.g. depression, drinking) and who were going to cause harm to themselves or others?

    (In case you are tempted to mention it, Churchill doesn't count :biggrin: ).
     
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  3. Mar 4, 2005 #2

    russ_watters

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    AFAIK, we can via the courts. It just isn't easy.
     
  4. Mar 4, 2005 #3

    selfAdjoint

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    Through the courts? How? The houses of Congress are the sole judges of their members' behavior. I was formerly represented by an alcoholic congressman. Like many a drunk he knew how to turn on the charm, and he kept being reelected although anyone who cared to study up would be able to see the truth. What could I or all the constituents who were aware of his condition have done? What kind of court case could we have brought?
     
  5. Mar 4, 2005 #4

    russ_watters

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    I was thinking of the President specifically, but now I'm not sure. If the President is incapacitated, (say, in a coma) how do they decide when power should be transferred? I was thinking it was the USSC's decision. Anyway, 14 states have "recall" laws on the books, but apparently that is only for in-state elections. I have no idea how you would remove a Senator.

    That said....
    ....you have to be quite a bit more "unewell" than just in a depression or being an alcoholic to be involuntarily comitted. It has to be so bad that the courts decide you are a danger to yourself or others. I suppose that could be applied to Senators - they aren't supposed to be above the law.
     
  6. Mar 5, 2005 #5
    If 'West Wing' is to be believed, short of his actual death it takes a memo from the President temporarily handing the power over to his Vice President. The problem on West Wing was that the President was shot and there was technically no Chief Executive while he was in the operating room. IIRC, when they told him (The President) about it after the fact his reply was 'What, I was shot and I was supposed to write a memo transferring power?' And his staff looked around a bit and then answered uncomfortably 'yes sir, actually you were.'

    As for legally removing a President (even temporarily,) I believe the only 'legal' means is the impeachment process. In reality though, I think if he had a nervous breakdown or somesuch his doctor would probably contact the VP/Chief of Staff and they'd do everything possible to convince him to take a little bedrest. If it got really out of hand, i.e., walking down the street and ordering the Secret Service to shoot random pedestrians, I imagine the President's Staff, Chief Justice, Speaker, etc would take whatever action was necessary to remove him from office .
     
  7. Mar 5, 2005 #6

    russ_watters

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    It may just be my mind playing tricks on me, but I though there was a USSC justice on hand when Reagan was shot just in case they needed to make "the decision."
     
  8. Mar 5, 2005 #7

    Moonbear

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    It would be a medical decision, and as you pointed out, alcoholism or depression wouldn't be enough, even for someone who is not a public official. It also doesn't refer to people who make bad decisions, even dangerous bad decisions. It primarily refers to those who are suicidal or homicidal, so are referring to mortal harm. Even in those cases, I think someone has to have a pretty definite plan for committing the act before it can be taken as serious enough to involuntarily commit them. In other words, even just saying you feel like killing yourself might not be enough; someone would need to be stating they're about to jump off a building or take a bunch of pills, etc.
     
  9. Mar 5, 2005 #8

    loseyourname

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    Isn't that what we just did to Saddam?
     
  10. Mar 5, 2005 #9
    OK, here it is. This is from the 25th Amendment:

    Russ: AFAIK, a federal judge is required to administer the Oath of Office to the new 'President.' It would certainly have been reasonable for Bush to have had a judge standing by in the White House so that if he got the call Reagan had died he could be sworn in right away.
     
  11. Mar 5, 2005 #10

    I think that is what we did to Saddam. Except we had to invade the country to over throw him.
     
  12. Mar 5, 2005 #11

    russ_watters

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    Jeez, I knew about the 25th Amendment, why didn't I check? :rolleyes: I didn't realize it was that specific about removing him (I thought it was more about succession). So it sounds like his cabinet could get together and remove him.
     
  13. Mar 5, 2005 #12
    If the president can't write the memo transferring power, can't his cabinate draw up documentation to over ride him? If they get all the cabinate members to sign it then doesn't that render the President incapacitated (sp?) and therefore over rule him?
     
  14. Mar 5, 2005 #13
    LOL, don't feel too bad. I remember (now) seeing a movie where the VP tried to stage a coup in this manner. They more or less read the first paragraph verbatim and I thought they had made it up for the movie.

    I can only imagine the nutroll that would ensue if this was ever tried. Imagine if the VP & Cabinet deliver a letter to the Speaker stating the President is unfit and the VP assumes power. An hour later, the President sends a letter stating 'No, I'm fine.' and resumes power. An hour after that, he gets another letter from the VP&Cabinet stating 'No, he's not fine' and the VP resumes power. After that, a great congressional trial ensues to determine if the President is really unfit or not. Two things that stand out to me are: 1) It doesn't say the VP would ever become President, just acting President. Short of a formal resignation by the President or the Impeachment process, I'm not sure he ever could. 2) If the President is found unfit by the Congress, could he ever be reinstated? Much like election law in the 2000 election, I suspect these issues will remain undecided until they are actually challeneged.
     
  15. Mar 5, 2005 #14

    loseyourname

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    This thread has focused on legal provisions for removing a standing leader, but good-old fashioned revolution and upheaval are always options if all else fails.
     
  16. Mar 5, 2005 #15
    How many times in history, not just in the U.S., has legal action been avoided and political cous been how governments and leaders have been removed?
     
  17. Mar 5, 2005 #16
    I do hope that makes sense. The wording isn't the best. Sorry.
     
  18. Mar 5, 2005 #17

    selfAdjoint

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    I think you meant political coups (pronounced "coos"), but I understood it. No coups in the US, unless you count the 2000 election, but lots eleswhere.
     
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