A Modest Proposal: Resign Now

Now that it is finally clear, notwithstanding the manifest absurdity of the anti-democratic 18th century Electoral College system, the proliferation of desperate lawsuits and the standard recounts in very close state races, that President Trump has narrowly failed in his quest for re-election, many people are understandably worried about what a frustrated and bitter Trump might do to America and the world between now and January 20, and, indeed, unless Trump is looking forward to wreaking revenge while he still holds the power to do so, the prospect of serving out this embarrassing, wounded-lame-duck “interregnum”, in full public view, as a “loser” — and a notoriously bad one — must be distinctly unappealing to him.

A modest proposal: Rather than further soiling his legacy by persisting in pursuing baseless claims and lawsuits and continuing to demonstate a terrifying degree of mental instability, Trump should give an Oval Office address in which he announces, with the maximum degree of dignity of which he is capable, that, since a majority of American voters have proven themselves to be losers unworthy of having him as their president, he is resigning with immediate effect.

By doing so, he would not only avoid the excruciating agony of being obligatorily present at Biden’s innauguration ceremonies, no doubt before a genuinely huge and wildly enthusiastic crowd worthy of a medieval royal beheading, but would also reward his very loyal vice president, who appeared significantly more responsible and mentally stable on election night than the president himself, with the distinction and life-long perquisites of being first a president and then an ex-president and, not incidentally, give him a leg up on Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley, his primary competitors in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

A further significant incentive to take the resignation road is that, while a president’s ability to pardon himself is a matter of academic debate never addressed by any American court and while an attempted self-pardon would presumably be an additional humiliation too far for a man who, in his own mind, has not only never done anything wrong but has not ever done anything less than “perfect” and “beautiful”, there is no legal doubt that a President Pence could “do a Gerald Ford” and grant Trump a pardon for anything and everything that he may ever have done.

In addition to doing a final favor for his mentor and ingratiating himself with Trump’s base in anticipation of 2024, President Pence could, when granting such a pardon, make the same genuinely serious argument that President Ford did when pardoning Richard Nixon — that, in a deeply and bitterly divided country in need of calm and reconciliation, pursuing his predecessor for alleged crimes would not be in the national interest.

Particularly since the modern role of an American “commander-in-chief” virtually requires any president to commit multiple war crimes, few Americans would really relish creating a “Peruvian precedent”, with, as in Peru in recent decades, virtually every ex-president being indicted and/or imprisoned and/or driven to commit suicide in order to avoid being indicted and imprisoned.

A pardon of former President Trump by his temporary successor should also be quitely welcomed with relief by incoming President Biden, sparing him from any necessity to make lose-lose choices between equal justice for all and domestic calm and reconciliation.

Among the post-presidential opportunities which Trump might pursue would be an indefinite-duration or permanent vacation in a foreign country with good golf courses and (at least if immunity from domestic legal pursuits had not already been reliably ensured) no extradition treaty with the United States. Afghanistan declined the post-9/11 American demand to extradite Osama bin Laden, thereby opening the door to America’s longest war, because it had no extradition treaty with the United States, and, today, 75 countries (Afghanistan still among them) have no extradition treaty with the United States.

While most of these countries are golf-course-deficient, an attractive possibility for Donald Trump would be the United Arab Emirates. Trump enjoys excellent relations with Mohammed bin Zayed, the effective ruler of the UAE. A private artificial island in exchange for permission to purchase 50 F-35s? A luxurious, stress-free retirement for Dubai Donald? An ex-president freed from personal legal worries, out of sight and, to the maximum degree possible, out of mind for his fellow Americans?

Realistically and seriously, is there a better alternative, either for Trump personally or for a deeply and bitterly divided country?

John V. Whitbeck is a Paris-based international lawyer.