Data from Taft's case can be used to examine several
holes in the Constitution related to
(a) Taft's illness fulfills the "nightmare scenario" of Presidential
disability, in which the Chief Executive has a medical condition
affecting his ability to think, but the condition is not properly appreciated by the people
Multiple anecdotes show that
Taft's illness is obvious only in retrospect.
Retrospective obviousness is completely typical of sleep apnea.
Many other illnesses have this characteristic.
(b) During the framing of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution
in the 1960s, "it was generally assumed that presidential inability
would be obvious to an
Lyndon Johnson's former press secretary has explained how obvious the inability
No one is going to act to interfere with the presidential exercise of authority
unless the president drools in public or announces on television that he is
Alexander the Great. ... Where presidents are concerned, the tolerance level
for irrationality extends almost to the point of gibbering idiocy or delusions
Is this the proper threshold?
(c) As Taft began his campaign for President in 1908, his weight was increasing.
It is reasonable to conclude that the severity of his sleep apnea was increasing, too.
In some sense, therefore, the 300+ lb. man inaugurated on March 4, 1913 may not have
been the same man, mentally, the public elected four months earlier.
Should this matter? When should a President-elect not become President?
More data are needed on Taft's weight and symptoms during this period.
(d) Most Presidential aides are steadfastly loyal.
Major Archibald Butt was no exception.
He kept secret a physician's grim prognosis for Taft (as
well as the physician's diagnosis of gout).
Should there be requirements to disclose information about the
(e) The bibliography page has a short
list of books related to Presidential health.