Austinite seeks way to recall a president
There’s no shortage of folks around town with what they think are pretty good ideas about how to improve the U.S. Constitution. I, for example, would hit the delete key on the 21st amendment, the one that gave up on Prohibition before we gave it time to work.
As a rule, folks who think they can get a constitutional amendment passed are delusional. But I listen when Gregory Watson talks about one because, if successful, it would be his second.
His latest idea is right there in the Congressional Record, Page H5525, in a section ingloriously called “Petitions, Etc.”
“The Speaker presented a petition of Mr. Gregory D. Watson, a Citizen of Austin, TX, relative to urging Congress to propose, for ratification by special conventions held within the individual states, an amendment to the United States Constitution which would establish a procedure by which the President of the United States may be removed from office by means of a nationwide recall election, which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.”
And the Congressional Record this week noted that Watson’s petition also has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
For now, let’s overlook the fact there’s a very good chance Watson’s current effort will die along with all
the other stuff that dies in committee. Let’s focus instead on his past success. Watson, a former longtime state Capitol aide, now is an Austin City Council aide.
As the story is told, as it has been many times, Watson was the unlikely driving force behind the 27th and most recent amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Back in 1982, Watson, then a University of Texas student, learned that a constitutional amendment proposed by James Madison in 1789, never had been ratified by the required number of states but was still in play.
Madison wanted to bar members of Congress from voting themselves an immediate pay raise. Under his proposal, such a pay raise couldn’t take effect until an after a congressional election.
Watson got the ball rolling again on the proposal and by 1992, two centuries after it was proposed, it had been ratified by enough states to add it to the Constitution.
In 2002, John Dean (yes, that one, Watergate fans) wrote about Watson’s effort. “Remarkably, and singlehandedly, Greg Watson had amended the Constitution,” Dean wrote, calling Watson “a concerned citizen — actually, a kind of supercitizen. He is modest and self-effacing — not someone seeking his 15 minutes of fame.”
The supercitizen is back, this time not with a proposed constitutional amendment already in the pipeline. Watson says his current effort results from nothing more than his feeling that there ought to be a way other than congressional impeachment to oust a president.
A national recall election, he believes, would be the way to go. Watson insists this is not aimed at any particular president though “I’m not particularly in love with the current president.”
“He tends to ignore the structure of the Constitution,” Watson, who sides with those who believe President Barack Obama has used executive orders to exceed his authority on some topics.
But before you accuse Watson of being a partisan, let’s note he also wasn’t a George W. Bush fan because of “the wars and the deficits.”
Watson understands the long-shot nature of his current effort. His current petition to Congress is one of many that body fields. Almost all of them never get any further than filed.
“There is no guarantee they’ll do anything with it,” Watson said. “But it’s still worth trying.”
The process he hopes to have put in place would continue with state-bystate action, a ratification method used in 1933 to end Prohibition.
Watson sees recall as a procedure necessary “should the American people become sufficiently unhappy” with a particular president.
I see presidential recall elections as potential mayhem. But maybe mayhem has its place.
And, if you see Watson around City Hall, ask him about another idea he’s sent to Congress: It involves creating a $25 bill.
Regardless of whether you like his particular ideas, you’ve got to like a guy who has ideas.
Watson says there should be a way for voters to recall a president.