Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bush ignores congress and the constitution

"When conservative military men like John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham and Colin Powell stand up to the president, it shows how wrong and isolated the White House is," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "These military men are telling the president that in the war on terror you need to be both strong and smart, and it is about time he heeded their admonitions.

To illustrate some of the ways that Bush ignores the congress and tramples on The Constitution, I refer to "The American Conservative".

July 17, 2006 Issue
Copyright © 2006

Power of the Pen

The president uses signing statements to decree which laws apply to him.

by James Bovard

For generations, Republican politicians have spoken reverently of the rule of law. But since 2001, this hoary doctrine has been redefined to mean little more than the enforcement of the secret thoughts of the commander in chief.
George W. Bush has added more than 750 “signing statements” to new laws since he took office. Earlier presidents occasionally appended such comments to new statutes, but Bush is the first to use signing statements routinely to nullify key provisions of new laws. He perennially announces that he will not be bound by limits on his power and that he will scorn obligations to disclose how federal power is being used.

Bush’s most famous signing statement was on the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. After White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales publicly declared that Bush enjoyed a “commander in chief override” regarding laws prohibiting torture, members of Congress enacted legislation to make it stark that torture was illegal. The White House engaged in long and arduous negotiations with Congress. After Bush signed this law last Dec. 30, he announced that he would construe it “in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power.” This was widely interpreted to mean that the law is binding only when Bush pleases. He was reiterating a confidential 2002 Justice Department memo that declared that the federal Anti-Torture Act “would be unconstitutional if it impermissibly encroached on the President’s constitutional power to conduct a military campaign.”

We have a nullification crisis at the heart of the American Republic. Torture is apparently legal, despite a federal prohibition. Domestic wiretapping is apparently legal, despite clear legal and constitutional prohibitions. Seizing suspects and holding them indefinitely is apparently legal, despite the Constitution’s requirement of habeas corpus.
Apparently, the government is not obliged to obey any law that Bush does not personally approve of. And how can we know which laws Bush approves of? It’s a secret. Bush’s personal thoughts thus become the ultimate law of the land—and no one can know if the government is violating the “law” because Bush has not publicly declared what the law is.
Why should anyone give Bush the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is obeying all of the laws that he has not yet publicly proclaimed a right to violate? New York University law professor David Golove told the Boston Globe, “Where you have a president who is willing to declare vast quantities of the legislation that is passed during his term unconstitutional, it implies that he also thinks a very significant amount of the other laws that were already on the books before he became president are also unconstitutional.”


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