Why Wait Three Years for Our Next President?
--By August 2003 California Governor Gray Davis' approval rating had plunged
to 22 percent. Two months later, he lost a special recall election.
Now it's George W. Bush's turn to take a drubbing. The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup
poll finds that only 37 percent of Americans think he's doing a good job, a
record low for him and a dangerous drop below the historical benchmark of 40
"When a president falls below 40 percent approval in public opinion polls--as
President Bush has done twice in the past two months--it's usually a sign of
serious political danger," writes Richard Benedetto in USA Today. "Since
1950, five of the eight other presidents who fell below 40 percent--Harry Truman,
Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush--lost their bids
for reelection or opted not to run again. A sixth, Richard Nixon, was overwhelmed
by the Watergate scandal and resigned. Only two, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton,
turned things around." But even Clinton never regained his former appeal.
His hand-picked successor, vice president Al Gore, won the 2000 election by
such a narrow margin that Republicans were able to steal it away.
The "political capital" Bush claimed after the 2004 election has
vanished over the last year. Dead Americans piled up in Iraq and New Orleans,
his closest political allies were indicted for corruption and treason, gas prices
soared and his party's right-wing Christianists stabbed him in the back over
the Harriet Miers' nomination. All of Bush's best-laid plans--to privatize Social
Security, pass another round of tax cuts for the wealthy and possibly expand
his wars to Syria and Iran--lie in ruins. And it's only going to get worse now
that his moderate and centrist Republican allies in Congress are beginning to
peel away: some to appeal to swing voters in next year's midterm elections,
others to align themselves with John McCain's incipient 2008 presidential campaign
and some simply because Bush's poll numbers make him radioactive.
George W. Bush, a tiger who so recently assigned himself the right to assassinate
American citizens at will, has been defanged. He's as pathetic and powerless
as Saddam Hussein. He is done.
"Lame duck" doesn't cut it. Unless Bush resigns, the world's sole
superpower faces the dismal prospect of three long years under a dead duck president.
Who will extract us from two losing wars? How will we pay off the $8 trillion
national debt he ran up? America needs a strong president yesterday.
Bush could save himself and the nation three years of marking time by resigning.
Or Congress could do the right thing and impeach him for his countless crimes.
Maybe Bush and Cheney will get indicted for their roles in outing CIA agent
Valerie Plame. But our constitutional system only allows for impeaching individuals,
not whole administrations. If Cheney is indicted and forced to quit, Bush will
appoint a replacement--Washington scuttlebutt points to secretary of state Condi
Rice. If Bush falls, Rice ascends. If something happens to Rice, the person
she chose as vice president succeeds her. All the political hacks who lied and
schemed and whose incompetence led to the current crisis of leadership--Donald
Rumsfeld, Stephen Hadley, Karl Rove--stay in place. The hydra lives. More young
men and women die in Iraq.
One solution is to establish a California-style recall system on the national
level. If a significant percentage of Americans loses confidence in the president
and his administration to the extent that they're willing to sign a recall petition,
a special election should be held within three months. The number of required
signatures should be high enough--California's system calls for 12 percent of
the number of people who cast votes in the preceding election--to ensure that
recalls are only held as the result of widespread disgust among the citizenry.
To avoid disruption, the constitutional amendment creating the recall provision
could prevent such elections from being held more often than, say, annually.
And a recall won't automatically result in a new party taking over the White
House--just a new administration. But it would replace our current system of
political stagnation with a more dynamic democracy.
The threat of recall would make sitting leaders responsive to the people
more often than the current four-year election cycle, and would allow disastrous
and unpopular leaders like Bush to be replaced posthaste. Of course,
national recall elections wouldn't guarantee that the people would always be
happy with their leaders. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man who replaced Gray Davis
after the recall, currently "ranks among the most unpopular governors in
modern California history," reports