Third Party & Independents Archives

Removing A Failed President, Without Impeachment

We no longer can trust Congress to impeach and remove a terrible president. The Washington Post has published an op-ed piece Ouster By The People by Robert Dallek that proposes a constitutional amendment 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 decision making 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.

The removal process has the distinct advantage of not immobilizing Congress when it pursues impeachment. More important, removing a president through a national referendum that involves many millions of citizens, rather than simply through members of Congress, makes incredible sense. If we the people really are sovereign, then we should have the constitutional right to remove a president.

Sadly, Dallek did not also support using a mechanism already in our Constitution to propose amendments that are unlikely to come from Congress. Our Founders placed in Article V the option of having a national convention for the purpose of proposing amendments. Only one specific requirement is given and that has been met, but Congress has refused to call an Article V convention, though more than two-thirds of state legislatures have asked for one and even though Article V says that it “shall” do so.

If Congress has refused to honor Article V and give we the people what we have a constitutional right to – an amendment convention operating outside the control of Congress, the presidency and the Supreme Court, then it seems unlikely to propose a new amendment that would give the nation a national referendum to remove a president and vice-president. Each of the two major parties will fear that someone of their party could be removed from office and that a Speaker from the other party might become president.

Pressure could be mounted now on Congress to obtain the new amendment for removing a president or it could be mounted on Congress to obey the current Constitution and give us an Article V convention. Choosing the second option has the huge advantage that by obtaining the nation’s first Article V convention we would also have the opportunity to consider other sensible amendments. Fears of an Article V convention have been nurtured over the decades by groups now wielding power over Congress through lobbying and campaign contributions. Such fears are nonsense. Whatever an Article V convention proposes must be ratified in exactly the same way that all proposals from Congress are ratified.

The second point, therefore, in favor of working in favor of an Article V convention is that Congress has also largely failed we the people. Making it obey Article V and give the nation an alternative means of national discussion of possible constitutional amendments that a corrupt Congress will never propose makes all the sense in the world. For example, there is serious attention being given to the idea of electing Supreme Court Justices, rather than continue allowing political considerations to choose them. But neither major party would want to lose its power to shape the court, so that amendment will not be proposed by Congress.

Learn more about the Article V convention at Friends of the Article V Convention has the sole mission of obtaining the nation’s first convention and will not support any specific amendment. But every group that now advocates some type of political or government reform that could be obtained through a constitutional amendment should join and support this umbrella group.

[Joel S. Hirschhorn is a founder of Friends of the Article V Convention and the author of Delusional Democracy,]

Posted by Joel S. Hirschhorn at August 5, 2007 2:01 PM
Comment #228430

Joel, it says much about the failure of our current political system, that you and many other Americans now find motivated cause to alter the U.S. Constitution in such fundamental ways. This is how revolutions, peaceful and otherwise, begin.

I applaud your raising your voice to change to remedy a problem that is now irrefutable. Entrenched power unresponsive to the will and need of the nation’s people is precisely what the founding fathers hoped to avoid in their construction of our Constitution. That Constitution is proving to be inadequate to the task in our current political reality.

We must consider either changing the Constitution or that political reality. I personally believe it is easier to change the political reality, than the Constitution. But, regardless of method, something fundamental must change, and I applaud those who raise their voices in its call.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 5, 2007 3:54 PM
Comment #228438

Of course, this will not apply to president GW Bush. Ammendments take a long time and good sense usually prevails in the long run.

If you want to go to history, you know that the only recent presidents that probably would NOT have been recalled would have been Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan & Bush I. Clinton would have been out in 1995. He would never have gone on to to recover. Truman would have been finished off in 1949. In fact, no president could take any hard decisions.

We would have the kind of “free” demcracy of the unstable third world republics.

It is a truly silly idea. Fortunatley, it has no chance. We have elections periodically and a majority of the people usually get what they want. The exceptions to this were our elections in 1992, 1996 & 2000. In these cases, the winner got only a plurality of less than 50%. That is one reason we have such loose talk.

Posted by: Jack at August 5, 2007 4:23 PM
Comment #228445

Jack said: “We would have the kind of “free” demcracy of the unstable third world republics.”

Is that how you characterize governments like Great Britain and other democracies in which no confidence votes are a part of their system? Hardly third world republics, Jack. Your comment and argument make no credible sense at all.

And yes, you are correct that Truman and Clinton would likely NOT have survived. But, you know, every decision has a cost. It’s the net long term benefit and cost that is important. If losing their tenure afforded America a far more responsive and accountable government to the people and their future well being, I say, we would have been far better off for having lost Truman and Clinton early in their terms.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 5, 2007 4:46 PM
Comment #228448


A no confidence vote is very different from a referendum to overturn an election.

Besides, the Brits are very tradition minded in politics. In many other places, they cannot hold onto a government because of these sorts of things.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.

Posted by: Jack at August 5, 2007 5:35 PM
Comment #228453

all due respect (as you at least recognize that there is a problem, even if i entirely disagree with your solution), but the constitution has taken us this far. i see absolutely no need to unnecessarily amend it when a functional mechanism already exists to address the criminal actions of our current ‘president.’ it is the current administration that is broken, not the constitution… and if it ain’t broke…

impeach now. several organizations exist to whom you might make a contribution, if you are serious about removing this thug (and his cohorts) from our government. invest some time or money in the existing movement. better to unite behind it to achieve the common goal than to divide and dilute support, and thereby further perplex the situation.

Posted by: diogenes at August 5, 2007 7:15 PM
Comment #228475

We have a no confidence vote for president every four years and each president can only be in office for two terms. That seems plenty enough check to me, if this were enacted there would be a ‘no confidence’ vote on every president every sixty days just for the sheer politics of it.

If you don’t like a president, don’t vote for him. It is clear that in 2004 enough people wanted Bush to remain president and re-elected him. That election gave him four years to serve as our CIC until his term is up or he commits a treason or other high crime and is impeached. Neither have happened. Just because ‘you don’t like him’ or even the majority right now don’t like him that doesn’t mean he should be removed from that term.

The better solution, one that *I* would support, is taking away the power of the federal government to have such sway over our lives and return it to the states, so that if you didn’t like the way your state was functioning you could move to another and still maintain the basic rights and guarantees of freedom we are suppose to receive.

This is part of the byproduct of putting too much power in a centeralized location with a single leader… It only takes an incompetent fool to screw it all up.

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 6, 2007 12:21 AM
Comment #228498
We no longer can trust Congress to impeach and remove a terrible president.

I wasn’t aware that being a terrible President was an impeachable offense.

And would we really need a new amendment to oust Bush? Isn’t there something already in the Constitution about national referendums?

Oh, and now that even Republicans hate Bush, let me take this time to say: We told you so!

Posted by: American Pundit at August 6, 2007 12:47 PM
Comment #228508

Every four years the American people go to the polls to choose a President. Sometimes they choose wisely, sometimes they choose foolishly. And it depends on one’s political views as to how wise a choice was made. But the fact is that a bad President can be removed from office by vote of the electorate every four years.
But here’s the questions,
Do we really need to be able to recall a President before his term is up?
Can any President be so incompetent and/or corrupt that the country can survive until the next election?
Can a recall be held before the next election?
I have a sneaking feeling that the only reason an amendment like this be being purposed is to get at Bush. And if that’s the case it’s another study in lost causes. He’ll be out of office before an amendment even gets passed by Congress, much less ratified by 2/3 of the states.
I’m not all that sure that a recall amendment is really necessary.

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 6, 2007 1:36 PM
Comment #228527

Ron Brown asked: “Do we really need to be able to recall a President before his term is up?”

Absolutely! Bush has the power and authority in his mind to bomb Iran should he fancy to do so, without consulting Congress, the people, or anyone else, for that matter. He has the power and authority in his mind to surveil Americans he deems a threat to him, his government, his nation, and cause them to disappear into a legal morass, a life of frustration and futility and punishment without that citizen ever knowing they have been targeted. Bush has demonstrated his contempt for the law, for the Constitution, for the Congress, the Courts, and the American people.

If ever there was justification for removing a president from office before the expiration of their elected term, George W. Bush is that justification. The potential threat to this country, its future, ourselves, and our children’s futures, is very real, and this President, contrary to TV appearances, is a man under immense stress and awareness of the rejection of his performance by the public.

The only potential check and balance on this President is our Joint Chiefs of Staff and military, who may, or may not, comply with Bush’s orders to engage this nation in a conflict that will destroy its future. And as Dwight D. Eisenhower warned, the military is the poorest of checks and balances on power one could possibly imagine for a democracy.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 6, 2007 4:23 PM
Comment #228528

The real problem here is that people hate Bush now, yet they see nothing on the horrizon that offers any real difference. Its easy to see the corruption and ignoring continue and continue and continue…

Posted by: JayTea at August 6, 2007 4:29 PM
Comment #228537

So if Bush is removed does that leave Cheney?! Because back in July when Cheney was president he was hiding out in his home which I found on this website:

What would it be like if Bush was out and Cheney had more than 2 hours as president…would we again have to oust the new president right away?

Posted by: Brian at August 6, 2007 5:31 PM
Comment #228541

Brian, not sure if simultaneous impeachment is possible politically, but, serially? Absolutely! Cheney’s actions are worse in many ways than Bush’s and some of it is on TV footage.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 6, 2007 6:24 PM
Comment #228580

Maybe Bush does need to be removed. But if the only reason that the Democrats wants this amendment is to get him out they’re disillusioning themselves. The election is a little over a year away. It’s gonna take at least 3 to 4 years to get the amendment through Congress and then get it ratified by 2/3 of the states. And it maybe longer. By that time Bush will be long gone and it just might well could get used against a Democrat President.
Now wouldn’t that be a laugh.
The problem I see with a recall amendment is if the President is of a different party than the Speaker of the House (like now) the Speakers party forcing a recall just to try getting their party in the White House. And that’s something I sure wouldn’t put passed any of that current bunch of idiots on both sides of the isle.

Bush won’t get removed by a recall. Like I told David, it’ll take at least 3 to 4 years to get a recall amendment passed by Congress and ratified by 2/3 of the states. With his term expiring in Jan 09 he’ll be out of office long before the amendment is ratified. If it even makes it through Congress before his term expires.

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 7, 2007 12:13 AM
Comment #228608

This is possibly one of the worst ideas posted in a long time. The idea of trying to get a Constitutional amendment ratified just to get rid of President Bush is ludicrous! If you really want him out, pressure your elected representatives to begin impeachment proceedings. That is the way to proceed, not a recall election. The scenarios set out in previous replies are absolutely on target. The only way an amendment of this type could be made non political is to spell out in detail what would constitute grounds for a recall. Otherwise you are giving the opposition party free rein to try to oust any President who doesn’t give them what they want.

No amendment, use what’s already there.

This is a typical response to a situation we don’t like. Pass a law to correct one situation, never mind what might happen down the road. Remember these wise words: “Be careful what you ask for, you might get it”. Also remember the law of unintended consequences. History is filled with examples of actions taken to correct a problem that caused greater ones.

Posted by: Old Grouch at August 7, 2007 9:55 AM
Comment #228706

“The only potential check and balance on this President is our Joint Chiefs of Staff and military, who may, or may not, comply with Bush’s orders to engage this nation in a conflict that will destroy its future. And as Dwight D. Eisenhower warned, the military is the poorest of checks and balances on power one could possibly imagine for a democracy.”
Posted by: David R. Remer at August 6, 2007 04:23 PM

David, are you actually suggesting a military coup in the United States of America? What the…
Do you think this is Nicaragua or Cuba? You guys have just totally lost it in your hatred for Bush and Cheney!!!


Posted by: JD at August 8, 2007 12:41 AM
Comment #228796

JD, and you have completely rejected reality. The military always has the power to reject the orders of the President. It has always been true, and will always be true. The military is the ultimate check and balance on a President with regard to war. Fortunately, that option has never had to be invoked by our military - but, our military Joint Chiefs of Staff also swore an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution. That oath is the check and balance on a President who would violate it. Every President who has ever served in times of war or potential war, have been acutely aware of this fact.

As for my suggestion which you dreamed up: you are the one suggesting. I say what I mean forthrightly. But, dream on if it makes you feel good.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 8, 2007 9:26 PM
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