Sunday, April 30, 2006

Do We Still Have A Democracy?

Bush has denied the peoples’ voice via its elected representatives

From The Boston Globe

It seems that bush has delivered 750 signing statements in his five years and four months that he has held office. That is a rate of about .4 per day. Get it? The rate at which this is happening is MORE than 1 signing statement (going around the constitution) every 3 days.

What is the big deal, you ask? There are several issues at hand, and the implications are disturbing.

1) The Constitution sets up three branches of government – and a balance between those branches to prevent a monarchy sort of system from developing. There is a directly elected branch which (in theory) represents the will of the electorate legislatively. Congress is given the authority to create laws, and to hold the purse-strings. There is a judicial branch that can review the laws to provide oversight of the laws in terms of following the Constitution. And there is an executive branch that administers the laws and carries out the functions of government, that also appoints members of the judiciary (pending senatorial approval), and that can VETO acts/laws from the legislative branch – only then allowing the law to become law if a super-majority of the representatives of the people (congress) vote to override the veto.

The reliance on the signing statement subverts the constitution by disallowing the representatives of the people from creating/passing law – and due to its secretive nature (these are most often created after the law has been signed by the president and are not seen/known by the press or members of congress) there is no way for the congress to assert its Constitutional right/duty to override the president’s veto – because there is no veto. Thus at a rate of one time every three days, President Bush has denied the peoples’ voice via its elected representatives. And done so in secret.

The reliance of the signing statement also subverts the constitution by claiming the right for the president to use HIS view of the constitution as the final arbiter of the law – rather than the judicial branch of the government. While there could be judicial oversight were there challenges, the intentionally secretive nature of this practice almost ensures that no-one knows so there will be no challenges brought to the courts.

Simply – Bush has determined that the Constitutional power he is granted, to VETO acts of congress – is unnecessary and instead claims an Extra-Constitutional means to subvert the will of the people (acts of congress which are – in theory – the representatives of the people). He also has determined that HIS (extremist and opportunistic) views of the Constitution need no judicial review.

Again – the rate of this extra-constitutional activity by Bush is one time every three days.

2) Done in the dark of night (figuratively). These signing statements are filed after he signs the bills into law. In secret with no notice to Congress in terms of his intentions per laws they passed and he signed.

Thus there is no follow-up; no way of knowing what he has “signed into law” but has directed the govt agencies to disregard. Perhaps this article and the constitutional scholars who are cited (and thus can give Congress a place to start – were they to even care – to look in terms of WHERE there have been signing statements, on what topics, in order to see whether or not the law – or bush’s signing statement is being followed by the exec branch (federal agencies). However it appears that to date – within the government there is little record of what the administration is or is not doing per law – over the passed five + years.

Again – the rate of this extra-constitutional activity by Bush is one time every three days. Aren’t folks in congress starting to wonder which provisions that they put into laws are simply being ignored/subverted? At the rate cited one would guess that there is a whole lot occurring in the executive branch that is intentionally hidden from the light of day – just due to these signing statements alone.

Additionally, according to the Globe story, often what Bush signs works to nullify (in terms of how he is directing the govt agencies to act) ‘compromise deals’ that were hammered out during the legislative process… that is items that were they not in the bill, the bill would not have garnered enough votes to pass. There is no way to describe this except as subverting the process.

3) We, the public, first became aware of this practice last December due to the anti-torture legislative fight, followed by a congressional win, followed by news of the “signing statement” – and echoes from Congress of “What the Heck is THAT?” In that case and its infamous follow-up regarding FISAless searches – the administration proclaimed that it was due to National Security reasons (and thus they didn’t have to tell us anything more to keep us safe). And due to the continued post 9-11 fear, that seemed to work – for a couple of months. However – these 750 signing statements wander FAR afield from areas of national security.

Presidential signing statements are more than just executive branch lunacy.

Sign Here

By Dahlia Lithwick
Posted Monday, Jan. 30, 2006, at 5:32 AM ET

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