Some decry the fact that presidential campaigns take too long. The most recent one with all its ugliness could not have ended soon enough.

Maybe four year stints for those elected are also too long. We might need a probationary period to see how things work out.

The Constitution’s authors—all very wise men—did not foresee a situation where a chosen leader might not be up to the task. Presidents being no more perfect than most other living beings are sure to stumble, alienate, disappoint, make bad decisions and in a few instances commit egregious wrongdoings and even crimes.

As aspirants for the office they are accountable to none and given enormous leeway for conduct and comments that may later be deemed unacceptable. When they take power that all changes.

In the early days of this Administration, the extraordinary behavior on display from this President demands a searching re-evaluation as to whether he is fit for the office. 

What exactly constitutes “unfitness” that would justify removal is not explained in the Constitution which refers to impeachable offenses such as “Conviction of Treason or Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The fact that the “I” word is even being openly discussed barely one month into this presidency is remarkable in itself.

Talk of Impeachment is coming from Californians

Some prominent California lawmakers are among those talking about it—mainly Democrats at this point.

“We need to assemble all of the facts, and right now there are a lot of questions about the president’s personal, financial and political ties with the Russian government before the election, but also whether there were any assurances made,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “Before you can use the ‘I’ word, you really need to collect all the facts.”

“You see immense energy from people who want to resist the president. And that’s affecting the Congress,” said California Rep. Ted Lieu, who has said that a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives would impeach Trump. “A recent poll came out saying that 46 percent of Americans want the president impeached, and certainly members of Congress take notice.”

Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles, one of the Houses’ most senior members serving her 18th term has also added her very clear voice to those willing to consider impeachment.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has said much more cautiously, “When and if he breaks the law, that is when something like that would come up. But that’s not the subject of today.”

However the Democrats are not alone.

GOP Rep. Sen. Lindsey Graham a respected former military lawyer, had this to say: “I would urge the President to knock this off; this is the greatest democracy on Earth, we’re the leader of the free world, and people are going to start doubting you as a person if you keep making accusations against our electoral system without justification,” Graham said. “This is going to erode his ability to govern this country if he does not stop it.”

Former White House counsel John Dean, who served President Nixon from 1970 to 1973, told The Atlantic magazine: “I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes close to the level of corruption we already know about Trump.”

campaign to impeach  now has more than 650,000 signatures.

Hopes that Changes May occur are Evaporating

As opposed as millions were and remain to Trump’s election, there was some glimmer of hope, irrational or not, that he might just confound his critics, grasp the enormity of the task ahead,  and assemble a group of advisors and Cabinet heads who would know how to run a government.

Those hopes have been largely dashed watching the developments rocking Washington and the world, as Trump continues ad nauseum to rail against the “voter fraud” which deprived him of 3 million votes even though he was the winner and blasting the “lying press” over everything written or said about him.

Of course there are the alarming reports – on good authority—of covert contacts prior to the election with an adversary nation—Russia—that may have interfered in the election and compromised our intelligence apparatus.

Both middle-of-the-road Republicans and Democrats are worried about the escalating fallout from a steady stream of misrepresentations and outright lies by people charged with the nation’s security that may be traced as high as the president himself.

But the problems go well beyond.

Evidence of a very deficient vetting process mounted with the abrupt withdrawal of Labor Secretary nominee, Andrew Puzder, over delinquent tax payments to a housekeeper who did not have a legal work permit.

Top cabinet officials such as the National Security Advisor are already being shown the door before they have time to locate their desk, and others are scrambling to justify how their complex financial entanglements will avoid conflicts.

Many leaders have character flaws. But even making allowances for voter leniency the black marks have not, historically, been thought so extreme as to be considered impediments to governing.

The Notion of a “Honeymoon” is a Fiction

That assumption may be changing as Donald Trump, inexperienced in the art of politics, is doing his best to prove the voters wrong with newly self-inflicted damage to the office, his Party and to his nation, occurring on a daily basis.

This is no longer a try-out and there is no such thing as a dress rehearsal for what may be one of the toughest jobs in the world. Presidential honeymoons are a fiction. Ready or not, Trump became instantly accountable for his every word and deed as his signature on the oath of office was drying.

Since then the Trump team has been in a dizzying downward spiral working overtime to explain away everything from allegations of Russian meddling in the election in collusion with Trump campaign aides to bogus justifications for failing to produce tax returns that could reveal troubling business involvements.

Article II of the Constitution specifies “four-year terms” and the 22nd Amendment adopted in 1947 in obvious response to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s decades long stay in office creates a 2-term limit.

Other than through death or physical or mental incapacity, the only remedy available to shorten a presidency is impeachment. Two Presidents– Andrew Johnson in 1868 and William Clinton in 1998– suffered that fate.  Richard Nixon resigned before the Congress got around to it though it was inevitable.

The Constitution is of little help in describing situations where presidential abuse of authority results in such utter recklessness and cavalier exercise of powers that the government’s ability to function effectively is put into question.

A scholarly report published in 1998 by California’s Claremont McKenna College concluded,

“Based on (a) brief record, all one can say for sure is that those who wrote the Constitution wanted a president to be impeachable for offenses or misbehavior in addition to treason and bribery but not for all acts that might be viewed as bad administration of the office.”

The same report said,

When the substantive grounds for impeachment were mentioned at all, they were most often described simply as some unspecified violation of the public trust. In this regard, Alexander Hamilton was right in step with his contemporaries when, writing in The Federalist, he stated that impeachment is for “the misconduct of public men,… from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Are there Options short of Impeachment?

Many democracies with parliamentary systems can cut short undesirable leaders by what is known as “votes of no confidence,” which could be labelled terms of indefinite duration. England, which gave birth to much of our common law, uses such procedures and, centuries older than us, has avoided constitutional crises.

While the British system provides some flexibility and arguably greater public accountability and quicker government responsiveness, it can also be very disruptive—but no more so than the current state of affairs.

Our government was designed to avoid excessive rupturing of the political fabric and with the exception of the Civil War we have been fairly steadfast in preserving the foundations of a democratic republic without having to test its durability.

That all changed with this administration which views stability and governmental restraint with open hostility and is in danger of stretching the legitimate and legal uses of executive power to its limits.

A constitutional amendment imposing a probationary period for presidential service or the radical restructuring of our governmental framework is unlikely.

Nor should we expect that the current congressional majority would entertain formation of a committee to investigate if there are grounds for impeachment.

However, if the citizens of a state or a majority of its legislators wanted to petition the courts through the ballot to make a ruling as to what constitutes impeachable offenses within the meaning of the term “high crimes and misdemeanors,” there is nothing to prevent it from doing so.

Californians have never shied from taking positions that others soundly rejected which became the law of the land by judicial edict without need for constitutional amendment.

Whether the Supreme Court as presently constituted would take up such a question or would even claim jurisdiction over such a weighty matter remains to be seen. But a ruling from the highest court of a State would have great persuasion.

Perhaps we are approaching that moment when public outcry will demand such inquiry unless this President seeing the folly of his ways is shrewd enough and willing to change course.