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.Halleck talks about a recall provision that would require supermajorities of both the House and Senate followed by a simple up or down vote by the American people.
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. Instead, the president, determined to stay the course, declares that his strategy in Iraq needs more time to work, that the many charges of abuse of power are unsubstantiated, and that, as with Harry Truman, who also lost his hold on the public in the last two years of his presidency, history will vindicate him.
Sounds sensible, right? Well maybe, if we could be better assured of what Halleck, a historian, was getting at. Here is a hint:
However limited the use of this initiative might prove to be, its availability could help to pressure an ineffective, unpopular president into abandoning policies or altering actions that had turned the country against him. Would Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Warren G. Harding have been so casual about the wrongdoing in their administrations if they knew that a device other than impeachment existed for ousting them? Might Herbert Hoover have been less rigid or more receptive to fresh ideas for dealing with the Depression if he had a greater sense of urgency about satisfying public demands for economic remedies? Would Lyndon Johnson have been so unyielding about escalating the war in Vietnam if he feared voter wrath before the end of his four-year term?So what Halleck wants is a more "responsive" president, one more malleable to a public opinion that is hard to pin down.
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.
So what about current pulic opinion? There is a great deal of support for ending the war in Iraq, but hardly overwhelming. There have been calls for a "new direction" in Iraq, but no concrete counterproposals to follow. In reality, President Bush is not popular, but may yet still be vindicated--even within his own term.
The framers no doubt thought about the impact of a president who was unpopular, but truth be told, they were not all that concerned about a President who was no popular or effective. They had envisioned a Congress that is much more active and engaged that the Congress we have now or have had in the past decade. Congress penchant for investigation over legislation has not provided teh necessary check on presidential power or presidential politics. A strong president must be countered by a strong Congress in order for our constitutional system to function properly. President Bush has an agenda, we not only expect him to have one, but we demand of him to have one.
So a significant portion of the country does not like the President. Perhaps the Framers figured it is better for a nation to suffer "a fool" for four years or a portion of four years as a reminder that elections must be taken seriously.