We have never heard a sitting president claim that one of the major party candidates could not function as president. But that is what Obama has just done. The following is an excerpt from a transcript of remarks made by Obama in late August that comes directly from the official White House website.
"There have been Republican Presidents with whom I disagreed, but I didn't have a doubt that they could function as President. I think I was right, and Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues, but I never thought that they couldn't do the job. And had they won, I would have been disappointed, but I would have said to all Americans — this is our President, and I know he's going to abide by certain norms and rules and common sense, will observe basic decency, will have enough knowledge about economic policy and foreign policy and our constitutional traditions and rule of law that our government will work.In essence he has said, over the weeks leading up to the election:
But that's not the situation here. And that's not just my opinion; that is the opinion of many prominent Republicans. There has to come a point at which you say, 'enough'."
- Trump would not abide by "norms and rules and common sense."
- He questions whether he would "observe basic decency" should he reach the Oval Office.
- He said he would have been disappointed to lose the elections of 2008 and 2012, but never doubted whether his rivals in those elections, John McCain and Mitt Romney, could function as president or had the knowledge to make government work. "That's not the situation here," he added.
- He implied Trump "doesn't have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding, to occupy the most powerful position in the world."
- He stated Trump was "woefully unprepared to do this job."
- Obama said Trump lacked knowledge about Europe, the Middle East and other parts of Asia and had no knowledge of foreign policy or in fact domestic policy.
- He implied Trump has no sense of constitutional rights or of the law.
"If Trump wins the election, will you willingly and peacefully leave office and cooperate fully with the transition of power the way all of your predecessors in the White House have done in the past?"
It's a simple question that needs to be asked and answered—given Obama's highly inflammatory rhetoric over the last couple of months. And it is a fair question. If Barack Obama truly believes all of the things he said about Donald Trump, does he also believe that he has a responsibility to keep Donald Trump from taking office?
Aside from a major national emergency of some sort, this would be very difficult for Obama to do. But if there were some sort of enormous national crisis between now and next January, Barack Obama could potentially employ some of the extraordinary emergency powers that have been endowed on the office of the president over the past several decades.
There is not a single statute, regulation, executive order or presidential directive that contains all of the powers that a president would possess during a major national emergency. Rather, these powers have been layered on top of one another for a very long period of time, and they come from literally dozens of different laws, regulations, court decisions, executive orders and presidential directives.One document that I would refer you to is National Security Presidential Directive 51 which was put into effect during the Bush administration. It is all about "national continuity policy" and it defines a "catastrophic emergency" as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions." ( I imagine it was put into effect after 9/11.)
In such a scenario, the president would have almost unlimited power, and he would wield enormously powerful executive orders. If there was a big enough emergency, the president would potentially be able to declare martial law, suspend elections and essentially become a dictator.
Let us hope that we never see such a thing play out in the United States of America. But the prospect of Mr Trump directing the future of America is quite terrifying.