The Contemporary Presidency: The Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Recommendations and Deliberations of the Working Group on Presidential Disability


Robert E. Gilbert is professor of political science at Northeastern University. His most recent book is The Tormented President: Calvin Coolidge, Death and Clinical Depression.


The Twenty-fifth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1967 as a response to long-festering issues of presidential disability and succession. Jimmy Carter and other critics have argued, however, that the amendment is badly flawed. In response to Carter's suggestion, the Working Group on Presidential Disability was established in 1994 and, in late 1996, presented nine recommendations for strengthening the amendment to President Clinton at the White House. These are cited here and a number are explained and defended. Also, the suggestion made by some Working Group members that a Standing Medical Commission be created by law to monitor the president's health and issue periodic reports to the country is critiqued, using, in part, a case study derived from the presidency of John F. Kennedy.