“If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.” – George W. Bush, Dec. 19, 2000
Where to begin?
We could pimp it Hollywood style:
FROM THE PEOPLE WHO BROUGHT YOU ATTORNEYGATE – THEY THOUGHT THEY’D REIN HIM IN BY PASSING LAWS. BUT GEORGE DON’T NEED NO STINKING LAWS….HE’S GOT SIGNING STATEMENTS! NOW PLAYING IN AN ADMINISTRATION NEAR YOU….
Or we could do what the Democrats always do – roll over and ask to have their bellies rubbed:
We are Americans. We have the right to participate and debate any administration. – Hillary Rodham Clinton
The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Weisman reports today on the GAO study of the Bush administration’s systematic ignoring of provisions of legislation passed by Congress by issuing signing statements – statements of intent that argue that the Bush administration does not have to obey provisions of laws that the President himself signs.
As Weisman reports:
President Bush has asserted that he is not necessarily bound by the bills he signs into law, and yesterday a congressional study found multiple examples in which the administration has not complied with the requirements of the new statutes….The president has challenged a federal ban on torture, a request for data on the administration of the USA Patriot Act and numerous other assertions of congressional power. As recently as December, Bush asserted the authority to open U.S. mail without judicial warrants in a signing statement attached to a postal reform bill.
Now maybe I’m crazy, but I’ve always thought that despite protections such as executive privilege that, in the main, the President of the United States is bound by the laws of the land. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Bush, as we know. His successful adventures with the law over his presidency – practicing torture on enemy combatants, engaging in domestic spying, falsifying intelligence – seem to have given our very own Boy George an expanded sense of droit de Dubya (if that was possible). But now he’s marking out new territory: his – divine, one assumes – right to obey the laws he wants to and ignore those he doesn’t. As Senator Robert Byrd, an old school Constitution defender, observes, Bush seems intent on expanding the power of the executive branch:
“This GAO opinion underscores the fact that the Bush White House is constantly grabbing for more power, seeking to drive the people’s branch of government to the sidelines.”
Although the GAO report seems to suggest that a number of the administration’s actions aren’t egregious flouting of the law, Bruce Fein, constitutional lawyer and a member of the ABA task force that criticized Bush’s use of signing statements in a report last year, disagrees. The Post quotes him thusly:
“At least it makes clear the signing statements aren’t solely for staking out a legal position, with the president just saying, ‘I don’t have to do these things, but I will,’ ” Fein said. “In fact they are not doing some of these things. You can’t just vaporize it as an academic question.”
We’ll see how far Bush will go soon enough. Bush is currently facing the question of whether he should pardon I. Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former chief-of-staff who was convicted of lying to protect his bosses for violating the law of the land and revealing the identity of a CIA operative. A steady drum beat from his cronies is admonishing Bush to let Libby off. An equal drum beat of others, including staunch conservatives like Pat Buchanan and James Gilmore, former governor of Virginia, is telling Bush that pardoning Libby would be tantamount to open admission of his contempt for the law:
“If the public believes there’s one law for a certain group of people in high places and another law for regular people, then you will destroy the law and destroy the system.” – James Gilmore
Given Bush’s sense of privilege and his seeming contempt for laws that don’t suit his purposes that the GAO has now quantified, look for that Libby pardon any day now.
Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”