Sunday, August 5, 2007

Ouster By the People By Robert Dallek

Polls showing President Bush's approval ratings in the 20s and 30s and a New York Times survey last month reporting that people across the country are eager for an end to the current administration suggest that this nation has a problem it's going to have to live with for the next 17 months -- a failed presidency that won't reestablish its credibility with a national majority.

The political argument against Bush's continuing tenure is not frivolous. There are good reasons to see him as a failed president whose remaining time in office will be unproductive at best and destructive to the country's well-being at worst. But given the constitutional rules by which the presidency operates, there is no serious prospect of removing him from office.

A fine solution would be a Nixon-style resignation, but anyone who thinks that Bush and Vice President Cheney would give in to such a demand is dreaming. With no serious threat of impeachment looming, Bush and Cheney can afford to dismiss calls for their departure as the outcries of political extremists.

Dallek, a well-regarded Presidential historian, goes on to recommend a Constitutional amendment allowing for a recall procedure. His argument strikes me as a bit thin (and underbaked) for a change of this magnitude--and too late to deal with our current crisis. Further, if Congressional leaders are too feckless to initiate an impeachment inquiry under current circumstances, it is hard to understand why they would play the initiating role required under Dallek's proposal. But let me give him the final words:

Such an amendment would compel presidents to think about public support or government by consensus throughout their time in office, rather than as they approached reelection, particularly during a second term, when they would otherwise have no reason to fear voter repudiation.

Obviously, this proposal is not going to affect Bush's tenure. But his presidency is a troubling lesson in the malaise that can settle over the country during the lame-duck period of a stubborn chief executive. 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.

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