Friday, January 20


Today the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes on the presidential "signing statement."

This is an an egregious example of this administration's imperial attitude toward the law and our most sacred U.S. institutions. He is in effect, unconstitutionally nullifying the Congress' ability to pass legislation, a power which is given exclusively to the Congress by the U.S. Constitution. Yet his loyal hordes in that very body refuse to declaim his usurpation of their responsibilities simply because they are of the same party.

Yet Mr. Bush has taken the presidential signing statement as another means of asserting his will over and above the country's laws, whatever they may say. In effect, he is trying to establish that whatever he says when he signs the bill overrides whatever the legislation itself may stipulate. Historians and presidential scholars, among others, find it alarming.

This is nothing new for Mr. Bush. He began disregarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 in 2002 when he authorized wiretapping of foreigners and Americans' telephone calls and e-mails by the National Security Agency without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The practice continues today.

His new use of the presidential signing statement turned up egregiously when after signing the bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain to ban the torture of prisoners in American custody, Mr. Bush issued a statement Dec. 30 that in effect said he would enforce the new law only as he saw fit.
Mr. Bush's subversion of the process is particularly ironic since the laws passed by Congress that he chooses not to carry out are the product of a legislature controlled by his own political party. Unfortunately, that is also a prime reason that Congress is not in open revolt over the president's disregard for its work.

Everyone loses when a president chooses to carry out only the laws that he wants to, as he wants to. Fundamental governance of the United States through the rule of law is sabotaged by this practice. We'll see what happens when Mr. Bush's ability to do so is challenged by a court -- assuming there will still be independent courts after he succeeds in stocking them with acquiescent appointees.

Hat tip to Dr. Bruce.

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