by Joel S. Hirschhorn
Atlantic Free Press
Monday, 06 August 2007
We no longer can trust Congress to impeach and remove a terrible president. The Washington Post has published an op-ed piece by Robert Dallek that proposes a constitutional amendment to allow “ouster by the people” for removing a president other than by impeachment or because of incapacity. Considering the dismal performance of George W. Bush and his administration and the difficulty in obtaining impeachment, this is a fine idea.
Here are the main features of the amendment: The recall procedure would begin by obtaining a 60 percent vote in the Senate and House. Public pressure on Congress could help it shift decisionmaking to the electorate. Congressional support would initiate a national referendum that would be open to all eligible voters in state elections. Clearly, it should be done fairly quickly. The ballot would simply offer the choice of voting “yes” or “no” to the option of removing the president and vice president from office immediately. If the majority votes in favor of removal, then the Speaker of the House would become president and choose a vice president who would have to be confirmed by majorities in the House and Senate.
These are solid ideas that would add a much needed dose of direct democracy that would hold presidencies more accountable to Congress and the general public than any constitutional mechanism now available.
There must be limits in a functional and fair representative democracy to what a president can do. Bush has more than demonstrated that the presidency has become much too powerful, able to undermine our Constitution and the rule of law, sell out our national sovereignty, put us in incredible debt, waste American lives, and walk all over Congress.
There are 18 states that have a recall process for sitting governors. So this notion is not absurd. Interestingly, in only two cases have governors been removed through citizen action: In North Dakota in 1921, and more recently in California in 2003. Recall works, but has not been used frivolously.
As Dallek correctly concluded: “The nation should be able to remove by an orderly constitutional process any president with an unyielding commitment to failed policies and an inability to renew the country’s hope.” Amen.
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